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Title: Moral Theology
       A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best
       Modern Authorities

Author: John A. McHugh
        Charles J. Callan

Release Date: February 22, 2011 [EBook #35354]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by David McClamrock


A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern




Nihil Obstat

Imprimi Potest

Nihil Obstat
Censor Librorum

Archbishop of New York

New York, May 24, 1958

The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book
or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is
contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and
imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.

[Transcriber's note: References to the Code of Canon Law in this work
are to the 1917 version of the Code, later superseded by the 1983

All Rights Reserved by Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., New York


The purpose of the present work is to give a complete and comprehensive
treatise on Catholic Moral Theology, that is, on that branch of sacred
learning which treats of the regulation of human conduct in the light
of reason and revealed truth. This new work strives to deal with the
subject as a systematic and orderly whole, and is based throughout on
the principles, teaching and method of St. Thomas Aquinas, while
supplementing that great Doctor of the Church from the best modern
authorities. Needless to say, there are many questions and problems
connected with modern life that did not exist when the great classic
works on Moral Theology were written, and to these naturally special
attention has been given in the treatment that follows.

Nowadays, since the appearance of the New Code and of many special
works on Canon Law, it would be a mistake to encumber the pages of a
work like the present one with canonical questions of interest only to
the specialist, and which are ably and abundantly treated in fine
commentaries on the Code that are already available. Likewise, it would
be an error to treat here matter pertinent only to Dogmatic Theology or
History. All digressions, therefore, into alien fields have been
avoided in this work, with the result that a greater number of useful
moral questions have been herein considered.

But not only is it necessary to avoid irrelevant subjects, but it is
also needful not to sacrifice essentials for accidentals in any work of
this kind. It is the fault of too many textbooks on Moral Theology to
stress controversies, cite authors, and quote opinions, at the expense
of the principles and reasons that govern and explain the teaching
given. This work eschews that method, and is at pains everywhere, first
of all, to lay the foundations on which the superstructure is to be
built, namely, the definitions and rules that are presupposed to moral
judgments and conclusions. Obviously, this is a more logical way of
proceeding, and it consequently enables the student much more easily to
understand and retain the matter studied, since he can thus reason
questions out for himself. Moreover, such a method makes for brevity
and renders it possible, as said above, to treat more subjects than
could otherwise be treated; it makes it possible to condense the matter
of many pages of larger and less accessible works into brief and terse
paragraphs. But from this it should not be gathered that the work which
follows aims to present Moral Theology in a dryly scientific fashion.
On the contrary, it has been our endeavor to treat the matter in a way
that is at once clear, solid, comprehensive and interesting. Since the
general and the abstract do not make the same strong impression as the
particular and the concrete, laws and axioms are copiously illustrated
throughout with pertinent and practical examples that often amount to
brief _casus conscientiae_, thus combining the theory and the practice
of Moral Theology.

It would be a mistake to think that, while Moral Theology is a
technical and scientific treatise on human conduct, it deals
exclusively or primarily with vice and sin, and that it is intended
only to enable the priest rightly to administer the Sacrament of
Penance, distinguishing between the various classes of sins and their
consequences. Of course, it does all this, but it should do much more;
for it has also a much higher purpose, which is to enable man, not only
to know what is forbidden and how he may escape from moral disease and
death, but also to understand what are his duties and how he may live
the life of grace and virtue. The subject is indeed more positive than
negative, and it should be discussed accordingly. Thus, far from being
useful merely to confessors as a guide by which they may detect and
distinguish mortal and venial sins and the higher and lower degrees of
culpability, Moral Theology in its broader aspect should be of the
greatest service likewise to the individual in forming his own habits
and character, and in particular to those who have the guidance of
others, whether in or out of the confessional, such as pastors,
preachers, teachers, and the like. Consequently, the present work has
been written with a view to the homiletic and pastoral functions of the
priest, as well as those that pertain strictly to the administration of
the Sacraments.

Heretofore works on Moral Theology in English have been altogether too
few or too fragmentary, whereas they have been abundant in the
vernaculars of Continental Europe--German, French, Spanish, Italian,
etc. This does not mean that the present work is intended to replace
the Latin text-books used in our seminaries, but rather that it should
enable students and priests to get a more thorough and ready knowledge
of an all-important subject, and to adapt it more easily to the varying
needs of the ministry.

The section of this work on Law has been carefully read by two eminent
civil lawyers.

THE AUTHORS. May 10, 1929.


This is a revision, not a rewriting. Various deletions and additions
have been made with the intent of bringing the work up to date within
the scope of the original plan and methods of the authors. In this way
it has been possible to preserve the features that have made this
manual a standard guide for the past thirty years.

EDWARD P. FARRELL, O.P., S.T.LR., S.T.D. Washington, D.C., June 8, 1958


[Volume I of print edition, through section 1625]



Definition of Moral Theology (1-3).--The Objects of Moral Theology
(4-5).--The Sources of Moral Theology (6-12).--The Methods of Moral
Theology (13-14).--The History of Moral Theology (15-16).--The Division
of Moral Theology (17-18).


Question I



The Existence of the Last End (19).--The Nature of the Last End
(20).--The Attainment of the Last End (21).


Introduction (22).--Definition (23).--Knowledge Requisite for a Human
Act (24-33).--Consent Requisite for a Human Act (34-39).--Obstacles to
Consent (40-55).--Two Kinds of Voluntary Acts (56-62).


Introduction (63).---Definition (64-69).--The Sources of Morality
(70-75).--Good Acts (76-78).--Bad Acts (79-81).--Indifferent Acts
(82-86).--Perfect and Essential Goodness (87-88).--Morality of the
External Act (89-93).--Morality of the Act Indirectly Willed
(94-95).--Morality of the Consequences of an Act (96).--Imputability


Introduction (106).--Definition (107).--Divisions of Merit (108-115).


Introduction (116).--Definition (117).--Division (118-120).--Moral
Value of the Passions (121-131).

Question II




Definition (133).--Division (134-136).--Strengthening and Weakening of
Habits (137-139).--Habits and Morality (140-141).


Definition (142).--Division (143-152).--Properties of the Virtues
(153-158).--Complements of the Virtues (159-166).


Definition (167).--Divisions (168).--Mortal Sin (169-179).--Venial Sin
(180-184).--Imperfections (185).--Change in the Gravity of Moral
Defects (186-196).--The Distinctions of Sins (197-219).--Comparison of
Sins (220-229).--The Subjects of Sins (230-245).--The Causes of Sin
(246-267).--The Motives of Sin (268-271).--The Results of Sin (272-283).

Question III




Definition (285).--Division (286-287).--Collision of Laws
(288-292).--The Basis of All Laws (293-294).


Meaning (295-296).--Division (297-304).--Properties (305-327).


Meaning (328-330).--Division (331).--The Mosaic Law (332-345).--The Law
of the New Testament (346-369).


Definition (370).--Division (371).--Qualities (372-374).--Obligation of
Human Laws (375-384).--Interpretation of Law (385-386).--Those Subject
to Law (387-388).--Change of Law (389-390).--The Law of Custom
(391-400).--Dispensation (401-410).--Epieikeia (411-417).


Introduction (418-419).--General Law of the Church (420-422).--
Lawgivers in the Church (423-424).--Subject-Matter of Church Law
(425-426).--Those Bound by General Laws (427-434).--Those Bound by
Particular Laws (435-446).--Promulgation (447-449).--Irritant Laws
(450-458).--Laws Based on Presumption (459-461).--Fulfillment of Law
(462-482).--Interpretation (433-486).--Cessation of Obligation
(487-499).--Cessation of Law (500-505).--Custom (506-513).--Laws in a
Wide Sense (514-541).


Meaning (542).--Origin (543-545).--Subject-Matter (546-549).--Those
Subject to Civil Law (550).--The Obligation of Civil Law (551-556).--
Special Kinds of Laws (557-572).--Other Questions (573).

Question IV




Definition (575).--Division (576-579).--Obligation of Conscience
(580-587).--Results of Conscience (588-592).


Introduction (593).--Definitions (594).--Divisions (595-596).--The Lax
Conscience (597-606).--The Scrupulous Conscience (607-613).--
Scrupulosity (614-635).--Practical Conclusions (636-639).


Introduction (640).--Necessity of Certitude (641-642).--Kinds of
Certitude (643-653).--An Uncertain Conscience (654-655).--Doubt and
Suspicion (656-661).--Opinion (662-671).--The Moral Systems
(672-675).--Tutiorism (676-679).--Laxism (680-681).--The Other Systems
(682).-Probabiliorism (683-687).--Equiprobabilism (688-700).--
Probabilism (701-730).--Compensationism (731-738).--Practical
Conclusions (739-742).






Introduction (746-749).--The Meaning of Faith (750-753).--The Object of
Faith (754-781).--The Acts of Faith (782-796).--The Habit of Faith
(797-807).--The Gifts of Understanding and Knowledge (808-811).


Introduction (812).--The Sin of Unbelief (813-825).--Heresy
(826-834).--Apostasy (835-839).--The Sin of Doubt (840-846).--Credulity
and Rationalism (847).--Dangers to Faith (848).--Dangerous Reading
(849-866).--Dangerous Schools (867-874).--Dangerous Marriages
(875-881).--Dangerous Communication (882-888).--The Sin of Blasphemy
(887-903).--Sins of Ignorance, Blindness, Dullness (904-912).


Introduction (913).--The Commandment of Knowledge of Faith (914-924).--
The Commandment of Internal Acts of Faith (925-937).--The Negative
Commandment of External Profession of Faith (938-943).--Dangers of
Profession of Unbelief (944).--Forbidden Societies (945-955).--
Communication in Worship (956-975).-Cooperation in Religious Activities
(976-986).--The Affirmative Commandment of External Profession of Faith


Definition (1009-1017).--The Object of Hope (1018-1026).--The
Excellence of Hope (1027-1035).--The Subject of Hope (1030-1040).--The
Gift of Fear of the Lord (1041-1058).--The Sins against Hope
(1059-1091).--The Commandments of Hope and of Fear (1092-1104).


Definition (1105-1114).--The Excellence of Charity (1115-1120).--
Production of Charity (1121-1132).--The Object of Charity
(1133-1157).--The Order of Charity (1158-1182).--The Acts of Charity


Internal Effects of Charity (1193).--Joy (1194).--Peace (1195-1197).--
Reconciliation (1198-1204).--Mercy (1205-1209).--External Effects of
Charity (1210).--Beneficence (1211-1215).--Almsgiving (1216-1257).--
Fraternal Correction (1258-1294).


Introduction (1295).--Hate (1296).--Hatred of God (1297-1303).--Hatred
of Creatures (1304-1311).--Gravity of the Sin of Hatred (1312-1316).
--Species of the Sin of Hatred (1317-1319).--The Sin of Sloth
(1320-1325).--Laziness (1326).--Lukewarmness (1327).--The Sin of Envy
(1328-1331).--Emulation (1332).--Jealousy (1333).--Fear (1334).--
Indignation (1335-1336).--Gravity of the Sin of Envy (1337-1344).--
Means of Overcoming Envy (1345-1346).


Introduction (1347).--Discord (1348-1354).--Contention (1355-1362).--
Acts of Sin against Peace (1363).--Schism (1364-1375).--War
(1376-1427).--Fighting (1428-1434).--Duelling (1435-1439).--Sedition


Introduction (1444).--Scandal (1445-1446).--Definition of Scandal
(1447).--Causes of Scandal (1448-1458).--Results of Scandal
(1459-1464).--Sinfulness of Scandal (1465-1474).--Persons Scandalized
(1475-1476).--Duty of Avoiding Scandal (1477-1487).--Duty of Repairing
Scandal (1488-1492).--Denial of Sacraments in Case of Scandal
(1493-1494).--Seduction (1495-1505).--Cooperation in Sin (1506-1508).--
Kinds of Cooperation (1508-1512).--Sinfulness of Cooperation
(1513-1514).--Lawfulness of Material Cooperation (1515-1525).--
Lawfulness of Immediate Cooperation (1526-1527).--Special Cases of
Cooperation (1528).-Cooperation in Reading Matter (1529-1530).--In
Dances and Plays (1531-1532).--In Selling (1533-1536).--In Providing
Food and Drink (1537-1539).--In Renting (1540-1541).--In Service
(1542-1544).--Duties of the Confessor as Regards Cooperation


Introduction (1547-1552).--The Commandment of Love of God
(1553-1560).--The Commandment of Love of Self (1561-1578).--The
Commandment of Love of Neighbor (1579-1584).--Fulfillment of the
Commandments of Charity (1585-1608).


Introduction (1609).--The Nature of the Gift of Wisdom (1610-1614).--
The Persons who Possess Wisdom (1615-1618).--The Beatitude and the
Fruits that Correspond to Wisdom (1619-1620).--The Sins Opposed to
Wisdom (1621-1625).

[Volume II of print edition, section 1626 to end]

Question II. THE DUTIES OF ALL CLASSES OF MEN (The Moral Virtues)


Definition (1627).--Objects (1628, 1629).--Certainty of Prudence
(1630).--Excellence (1631, 1632).--Acts (1633).--Qualities (1634).--
Parts (1635, 1636).--Integral Parts (1637, 1638).--Subjective Parts
(1639-1645).--Potential Parts (1646, 1647).--Persons Who Possess
Prudence (1648-1656).--Growth and Decay of Prudence (1657).--The
Beatitude and the Fruits that Correspond to Counsel (1662).--The Sins
Against Prudence (1663).--Imprudence (1664-1666).--Haste (1667).--
Thoughtlessness.--Inconstancy (1669).--Causes of These Sins (1670).--
Negligence (1671-1673).--False Prudence (1674).--The Prudence of the
Flesh (1675, 1676).--Astuteness, Trickery, Fraud (1677-1680).--
Solicitude (1681-1685).--Avarice, a Cause of Sins Against Prudence
(1686).--The Commandments of Prudence (1687).


Introduction (1688).--The Nature of Justice (1689-1700).--Division
(1701-1708).--The Object of Justice (1709-1713).--Comparison of Justice
and Other Virtues (1714-1718).--Injustice (1719-1726).--Judgment


Subjective Parts of a Virtue (1745).--Distributive and Commutative
Justice Compared (1746, 1747).--The Objects of Commutative Justice
(1748-1750).--Restitution (1751-1761).-The Roots of Restitution
(1762-1777).--Restitution for Cooperation in Injustice (1778-1785).--
The Circumstances of Restitution (1786-1796).--Causes Excusing from
Restitution (1797-1801).--Some Special Cases of Restitution (1802,


The Vice against Distributive Justice (1804-1814).-The Vices against
Commutative Justice (1815).--Homicide (1816-1851).-Suicide
(1852-1861).--Accidental Homicide (1862-1865).--Bodily Injury
(1866-1871).--Titles to Property (1872-1876).--Contracts
(1877-1889).--Theft and Robbery (1890-1919).--Lawful Occupation
(1920-1926).--Occult Compensation (1927-1938).-Judicial Injustice
(1939).--In Judges (1940-1963).--In Accusers (1964-1974).--In
Defendants (1975-1983).--In Witnesses (1984-1994).--In Lawyers
(1995-2008).--Unjust Words (2009).--Contumely (2010-2027).--Defamation
(2028-2075).-Cooperation in Defamation (2076-2084).--Restitution for
Defamation (2085-2102).--Whispering (2103-2105).--Derision
(2106-2110).--Cursing (2111-2119).--Murmuring (2120).--Fraud in
Contracts (2121, 2122).--In Sales (2123-2133).--Trading (2134,
2135).--Usury (2136).--Other Frauds (2137, 2138).


The Quasi-Integral Parts of Justice (2139, 2140).--The Potential Parts
of Justice (2141-2144).--The Virtue of Religion (2145-2148).--The
Internal Acts of Religion (2149).--Devotion (2150-2152).--Prayer
(2153-2169).--Distractions (2170-2174).--The External Acts of Religion
(2175).--Adoration (2176, 2177).--Sacrifice (2178-2182).--Offerings
(2183, 2184).--Contributions (2185-2190).--Vows (2191-2225).--Cessation
of Vows (2226-2243).--Other External Acts of Religion (2244).--Oaths
(2245-2262).--Adjuration (2263-2268).--Divine Praises (2269-2272).--The
Sins against Religion (2273).--Superstition (2274-2276).--Idolatry
(2277-2281).--Divination (2282-2289).--Vain Observance (2290-2298).--
Irreligiousness (2299).--Temptation of God (2300-2307).--Sacrilege
(2308-2316).--Simony (2317-2334).--Sinfulness of Simony (2335-2343).


Piety (2344-2350).--Reverence (2351-2354).--Obedience (2355-2372).--
Gratitude (2373-2380).--Vengeance (2381-2384).--Truthfulness
(2385-2388).--Lying (2389-2397).--Mental Reservation (2398-2402).--
Simulation (2403, 2404).--Hypocrisy (2405).--Braggadocio and Irony
(2406).--Breach of Promise (2407).--Violation of Secret (2408-2420).--
Affability (2421-2423).--Liberality (2424-2429).--Equity (2430-2432).--
The Gift of Piety (2433).--The Commandments of Justice (2434-2436).


Nature (2437-2441).--Martyrdom (2442-2445).--The Opposite Vices
(2446).--The Parts of Fortitude (2447).--Greatness of Soul (2448,
2449).--Presumption, Ambition and Vanity (2450).--Pusillanimity
(2451).--Greatness of Deed, Meanness and Vulgarity (2452).--Patience
(2453, 2454).--Stolidity and Impatience (2455).--Steadfastness,
Effeminacy and Pertinacity (2456).--The Complements of Fortitude
(2457).--The Commandments of Fortitude (2458-2460).


Nature (2461-2463).--The Opposite Vices (2464).--The Parts of
Temperance (2465).--Abstemiousness (2466, 2467).--Fasting and
Abstinence (2468, 2469).--The Sins Opposed to Abstemiousness
(2470).--Gluttony (2471-2473).--Sobriety (2474, 2475).--The Sins
against Sobriety (2476).--Drunkenness (2477-2485).--Purity (2486,
2487).--Virginity (2488-2491).--Impurity (2492-2496).--Temptations to
Impurity (2497-2503).--Non-Consummated Sins of Impurity (2504).--Impure
Thoughts (2505, 2506).--Impure Rejoicing (2507).--Impure Desire (2508,
2509).--Lewdness (2510-2514).--Sinfulness of Lewdness (2515-2518).--
Moral Species of Lewdness (2519).--The Consummated Sins of Impurity
(2520-2522).--Fornication (2523-2528).--Defloration and Rape
(2529).--Adultery (2530).--Incest (2531, 2532).--Carnal Sacrilege
(2533).--Sins against Nature (2534).--Pollution (2535-2538).--The
Sinfulness of Pollution (2539-2541).--Penalties (2542).--The Potential
Parts of Temperance (2543).--Continence (2544).--Meekness (2545).--
Anger (2546-2549).--Sinful Indulgence (2550).--Clemency (2551,
2552).--Humility (2553-2556).--Pride (2557-2560).--Abjectness
(2561).--Studiousness (2562).--Curiosity and Negligence (2563,
2564).--Modesty (2565).--Decorum (2566).--Modest Relaxation (2567,
2568).--Modesty in Style and Dress (2569, 2570).--Complements of
Temperance (2571).--Commandments of Temperance (2572).

Question III




General Duties of the Faithful (2574).--First Precept of the Church:
Sanctification of the Lord's Day (2575).--Hearing Mass (2576-2578).--
Servile Works (2579-2582).--Gravity of the First Precept (2583).--
Excuses (2584, 2585).--Second Precept: Abstinence (2586, 2587).--
Fasting (2588, 2589).--Third Precept: Yearly Confession (2590,
2591).--Fourth Precept: Easter Duty (2592, 2593).--Fifth and Sixth
Precepts (2594).--Laws on the Index and Cremation (2595).--The Special
Duties of Clerics (2596).--Vocation (2597, 2598).--Positive Duties of
Clerics (2599).--The Divine Office (2600, 2601).--Celibacy (2602).--
Negative Duties of Clerics (2603).--Trading (2604).--Stocks and Bonds
(2605).--Duties of Clerical Superiors (2606).--Duties of Pastors
(2607).--Charity to the Poor (2608-2610).--Special Duties of Religious
(2611).--The Vows (2612).


Husband and Wife (2613).--The conjugal Debt (2614-2617).--Morality in
Marriage (2618, 2619).--Contraception and Onanism (2620).--
Birth-Control (2621, 2622).--Cooperation with Contraception (2623).--
Recapitulation (2624).--Regulae pro Confessariis (2625).--The Duty of
Conjugal Companionship and Assistance (2626).--The Obligation of
Marrying (2627).--The Duties of Engaged Persons (2628, 2629).--The
Duties of Parents (2630, 2631).--Sex Education (2632).--The Duties of
Children (2633).--The Duties of Other Relatives (2634).--The Duties of
Superiors (2635).--The Duties of Subjects (2636).--Taxes (2637-2642).--
Voting (2643-2645).--The Duties of Employers (2646, 2647).--The Duties
of Employees (2648).--Labor Disputes (2649).--Employment (2650).--The
Duties of Certain Professions (2651).

Question IV


INTRODUCTION (2652, 2653)


Nature of a Sacrament (2654).--Matter and Form (2655-2660).--Necessity
of the Sacraments (2661-2663).--The Minister of the Sacraments
(2664).--Requisites for Valid Ministration (2665-2668).--For Lawful
Ministration (2669, 2670).--The Recipient of the Sacraments; Requisites
for Valid Reception (2671-2674).--Requirements for Lawful Reception
(2675).--Obligations of the Minister in Reference to the Recipient
(2676-2682).--Obligations of the Recipient in Reference to the Minister
(2683).--The Sacramentals (2684).


Introduction (2685).--The Sacrament of Baptism (2686).--Solemn and
Private Baptism (2687).--Duties of Pastors (2685).--Duties of Parents
and Guardians (2689).--Duties of Sponsors (2690, 2691).--Duties of
Adult Recipients (2692).--Duties of the Minister (2693).--The Sacrament
of Confirmation (2694).--The Minister (2695).--The Recipient (2696).--
The Sponsors (2697).--The Pastor (2698).--The Sacrament of the
Eucharist (2699).--Matter and Form of the Eucharist (2700).--The
Minister of Consecration (2701, 2702).--The Minister of Communion
(2703).--The Communicant (2704).--Worthy Communion (2705).--Frequent
Communion (2706).--Duties of Parents, Pastors, Confessors (2707).--The
Custody and Worship of the Eucharist (2708).--The Sacrifice of the
Mass; the Celebrant (2709).--The Obligation of Saying Mass (2710).--
Dispositions for Celebration of Mass (2711).--The Circumstances of Mass
(2712).--Interruption of Mass (2713).--Application of Mass (2714,
2715).--Stipends (2716).


Introduction (2717).--The Virtue of Repentance (2718-2726).--The
Sacrament of Penance (2727, 2728).--Contrition (2729-2735).--Resolution
of Amendment (2736).--Confession (2737-2744).--Satisfaction
(2745-2749).--The Minister (2750).--Jurisdiction (2751, 2752).--
Reserved Cases (2753, 2754).--Absolution without Jurisdiction (2755).--
Duties of the Confessor before Confession (2756).--Duties of the
Confessor as Judge (2757-2761).--Duties of the Confessor as Physician
(2762).--Duties of the Confessor as Teacher and Guide (2763).--Duties
of the Confessor after Confession (2764).--Reparation of Defects (2765,
2766).--The Seal of Confession (2767, 2768).--Abuses of Confession
(2769-2773).--The Sacrament of Extreme Unction (2774).--Duties of the
Recipient and the Minister of Extreme Unction (2775).


Introduction (2776).--The Sacrament of Orders (2777).--Distinctions of
Orders (2778).--The Hierarchy (2779).--The Matter and Form of Orders
(2780).--The Minister of Ordination (2781, 2782).--The Recipient of
Orders (2783-2785).--Registration of Ordinations (2786).--The Sacrament
of Matrimony (2787, 2788).--The Elements of Matrimony as a Contract
(2789-2793).--The Elements of the Sacrament (2794).--Duties in
Reference to Marriage (2795).--Engagement (2796-2798).--Duties to
Parents and to Children (2799, 2800).--Pre-Nuptial Investigations
(2801).--Examination of the Parties by the Pastor (2802, 2803).--
Matrimonial Impediments (2804, 2805).--Impedient Impediments
(2806-2809).--Diriment Impediments (2810-2819).--Dispensations and
Banns (2820).--After the Examination (2821).--Instruction of the Couple
(2822-2824).--Religious Preparation for Marriage (2825).--The
Celebration of Marriage (2826-2829).--Validation (2830).--Divorce and
Separation (2831).

APPENDICES [placed at end of Volume I in print edition]





A Complete Course


1. Definition.--Moral Theology is defined: (a) etymologically, as the
study of God, considered as the beginning and the end of man's moral
life, i.e., of those acts that proceed from reason and will; (b)
scientifically, as that part of Sacred Theology which treats of God as
our Last End, and of the means by which we may tend to Him.

2. Hence, Moral Theology differs from various related sciences or
habits. Thus: (a) it differs from Ethics, which is the science of human
conduct as directed by reason to man's natural end, for Moral Theology
uses faith as well as reason, and is concerned with man's supernatural
end; (b) it differs from faith, since it includes not only principles
revealed by God, but also conclusions derived from them; (c) it differs
from synderesis, or the habit that perceives the natural principles of
morality that are self-evident to the mind, for Moral Theology deals
also with supernatural truths and with truths that are not
self-evident; (d) it differs from conscience, which draws conclusions
for individual cases, since Moral Theology is concerned with general

3. Relation of Moral Theology to Dogmatic Theology.--(a) They do not
differ as two distinct sciences, for the main object, in the light of
which all else is studied, is the same in both--viz., God. (b) They do
differ as two quasi-integral parts or branches of the same science,
Dogma being concerned more with the speculative, and Moral with the
practical aspects of theology. Dogmatic Theology is the more important
of the two, as treating more directly on divine things and as being the
basis of Moral Theology.

In Dogma, God Himself is considered in His own nature and creatures as
they proceed from Him as from an exemplary and efficient cause, or
Creator. Moral Theology continues the pursuit of knowledge of God,
concentrating upon Him as He is the Final Cause of things. Creatures
emanate from God by way of creation, and this is part of the
subject-matter of Dogma; but creatures return to Him, each in its own
proper way by virtue of its nature created by God and directed by His
Providence and Government, and this return of creatures to God
constitutes the general subject-matter of Moral Theology. As Divine
Providence and Government are continuations of His Creation, Moral
Theology continues to study and to unfold the implications of Dogma's
consideration of God as Creator. God is known to have created as an
Intelligent Being ordering His handiwork to Himself as end. His special
masterpiece, man, special because he is made to the Image of God,
returns to God in a special way proper to him as an Image, i.e., by way
of acts of his intellect and will guided and moved by Divine Providence
and Predestination. It is of this special way of returning to God by
man, His image, that Moral Theology treats. Thus it adds to and
perfects Dogmatic Theology, enriching our knowledge of God by way of
making explicit the implications of Divine Creation and Providence to
His image, man.

4. The Objects of Moral Theology.--(a) The central theme or object of
Moral Theology, which is considered for its own sake and to which all
else is secondary (_objectum formale quod_), is God as the supernatural
End or Destiny of man.

(b) The secondary object (_objectum materiale_) is the means by which
one is advanced towards one's Last End (such as human acts, virtue,
grace, the Sacraments), or the obstacles which hinder one from
attaining that End (such as vice, temptation, etc.).

(c) The medium through which the above objects are known (_objectum
formale quo_) is the light of natural reason illuminated by faith
studying the sources of divine revelation and deducing conclusions from
doctrines revealed by God.

5. Hence Moral Theology includes: (a) the revealed doctrines concerning
man's destiny and duty that are contained in the written and oral Word
of God and as interpreted by their custodian, the Catholic Church; (b)
the conclusions that are contained in revelation; (c) the duties of man
to human laws that are based on the divine natural or positive law; (d)
the opinions of theologians on matters that are disputed, as in the
controversy about the systems of conscience.

6. The Sources of Moral Theology, therefore, are: (a) Holy scripture;
(b) tradition; (c) the decisions of Popes, Councils, and Congregations,
Laws, etc.; (d) the authority of Doctors and theologians; (e) natural

7. Holy scripture.--"All scripture, inspired by God, is profitable to
teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice" (II Tim., iii.
16). (a) Thus, the deeds narrated in scripture contain lessons for our
instruction; but not all of them, even though they be concerned with
holy men, are offered for our imitation. (b) The laws of the Old
Testament known as ceremonial (such as the rite of circumcision), and
those called judicial (such as the prohibition against the taking of
interest), are no longer obligatory; but the moral precepts, such as
those found in the Decalogue, always remain in force. (c) The
ordinances of the New Testament are of three kinds: the Gospel
counsels, which are not laws, but invitations to a higher practice of
virtue than is necessary for salvation (e.g., the advice of our Lord
that one sell all and give to the poor); the laws of the New Testament,
which are the commands that it imposes for all times (such as the
precepts that one believe the Gospel message, receive Baptism, hear the
Church, etc.); temporary regulations, which are those dispositions that
were made only for passing circumstances (such as the prohibition
issued by the Apostles against the eating of animals that had been

8. Tradition.--Tradition contains those doctrines concerning faith and
morals, not found in scripture, that were given orally by Christ or
inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that have been handed down from one
generation to another in the Catholic Church.

Tradition becomes known to us: (a) through the teaching of the Church
expressed by her solemn or ordinary magisterium; (b) through the
writings of the Fathers of the Church; (c) through the practice of the
Church expressed in her universal customs and laws; (d) through the
worship of the Church expressed in her universal forms of prayer and
liturgical observance.

9. Decisions.--In addition to divine tradition just spoken of, Moral
Theology uses: (a) Apostolic tradition, which comes down from the
Apostles, but whose subject-matter is not a teaching revealed to them,
but an ordinance which they themselves made as rulers of the Church
(e.g., the law that Sunday be sanctified as the Lord's day); (b)
ecclesiastical tradition, which contains regulations made by the
authorities in the Church and handed down to succeeding times (e.g.,
the introduction of certain days of feast or fast).

10. Authority of Doctors and Theologians.--(a) St. Thomas Aquinas has
been recognized by the Church as her highest theological authority, and
the Code of Canon Law (Canons 589, Sec. 1, and 1366, Sec. 2) orders that in
all seminaries and religious houses of study the courses of theology
shall be made according to his method, teaching and principles.

(b) When the theologians agree with unanimity that a certain doctrine
pertaining to faith or morals is divinely revealed, it would be next to
heresy to hold the opposite; if they agree only that it is certain, it
would be rash to contradict them, unless new and serious objections
unknown to them can be offered; if they are divided between schools and
systems (even though great claims for opinions are made by their
partisans), it is lawful for competent theologians to use their own
judgment and decide for the side that seems to have the better
arguments in its favor.

11. Reason.--The uses of natural reason in Moral Theology are: (a) it
demonstrates certain preambles to the teachings of Moral Theology, such
as the existence of God, His omniscience and veracity; (b) it
corroborates from philosophy many of the revealed teachings, viz., that
man's end is not in things finite, that he has duties to God, to
society, to himself, etc.; (e) it affords analogies in the natural
order by which we may illustrate the end and duties of man in the
supernatural order; (d) it supplies the means by which the teachings on
morals may be developed into the conclusions that are contained in
them, by which those teachings may be defended against the fallacious
objections of adversaries, and by which the whole may be arranged
scientifically into a body of doctrine.

12. Moral Theology is served not only by the various branches of
philosophy (such as Ethics, Theodicy, Psychology, Logic), but also by
many of the natural sciences. Thus: (a) Medicine and Physiology are
useful for understanding the morality and imputability of acts; (b)
Sociology and Economics may throw light on problems concerning justice;
(c) Jurisprudence is, of course, closely related to questions
concerning duties that arise from human laws; (d) History confirms the
teachings of Christian morality by the lessons of experience.

13. The Method to Be Followed in Moral Theology.-(a) The positive
method is a simple statement of moral principles and doctrines, with
little attention to argument, except such as is found in the positive
sources (e.g., scripture, tradition, the decisions of the Church).

(b) The Scholastic method is a scientific statement of moral teaching
through accurate definition of terms, systematic coordination of parts,
strict argumentation and defense, attention to controversies, and
recourse to philosophy and other natural knowledge.

(c) The casuistic method, or case-system, is the application of moral
principles to the solution of concrete problems of lawfulness or

14. The Scholastic method is the one best suited for the study of Moral
Theology, because it is more scientific, and fits one better to
understand, retain, and apply what one learns. But it is not exclusive
of the other methods, since it perfects the positive method, and is the
groundwork for the case method. Each method has a special suitability
for certain ends. Thus: (a) the positive method is well adapted to
preaching, and hence was much in favor with the Fathers of the Church,
as can be seen from their moral homilies and treatises; (b) the
Scholastic method is the best for study, teaching, apologetic, and was
followed by the great classical works of theology in the Middle Ages
and later; (c) the case method is very helpful to the seminarian and
the priest in the exercise of the ministry of the confessional.

15. The History of Moral Theology.--There are three periods in the
history of Moral Theology: the Patristic, the Medieval, and the Modern.

(a) The Patristic Period (1st to 12th century).--The moral writings of
the-Fathers are popular, exhortatory, and occasional; and it is not
till the Middle Ages that we meet with works of systematic Moral
Theology. The following are among the most notable moral works of the
Fathers: the _Paedagoga_ of Clement of Alexandria (d. about 217), which
explains what the everyday life of the Christian should be; the
_Catecheses_ of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386); the _De Officiis
Ministrorum_ of St. Ambrose (d. 397), a Christian counterpart of
Cicero's work _De Officiis_; the _De Civitate Dei_ of St. Augustine (d.
430), which contrasts love of God and love of self; the _Expositio in
Job seu Moralium libri XXV_ of St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), which
consists of moral instructions based on the Book of Job.

Celebrated among the ascetical and mystical writings are: the _Ladder
of Paradise_ of St. John Climacus (6th century), the Conferences of
Cassian (about 416), the _Libri V de Consideratione_ of St. Bernard (d.
1153). St. Gregory the Great's _De Cura Pastorali_ is a systematic work
of pastoral theology, and is regarded as a classic.

(b) The Medieval Period (12th to 16th century).--The method of the
moralists of this period differs from that of the Fathers in that the
former is systematic and philosophical, and more proximately adapted to
the use of confessors. The masterpiece of scientific Moral Theology is
of course found in the _Summa Theologica_ of St. Thomas Aquinas (d.
1274). Works of casuistry were composed by St. Raymond of Pennafort
(about 1235), by John of Freiburg (d. 1314), by John of Asti (about
1317), by Angelus of Chiavasso (about 1476), by Sylvester Prierias (d.
1523). The _Summa Theologica_ of St. Antoninus of Florence (d. 1459)
has been called an inexhaustible storehouse for manuals of casuistry.

Among the ascetical writers are: St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor
(d. 1274), John Gerson (d. 1429), John Tauler (d. 1361), Bl. Henry Suso
(d. 1366), and Denis the Carthusian (d. 1471).

(c) The Modern Period (16th century to the present).--Characteristic of
this period are the commentaries written on St. Thomas, the
controversies over the systems of conscience, the appearance of
numerous manuals and special treatises, and the attention given to
changed conditions of society and ecclesiastical discipline. Noteworthy
among modern works are: the Commentary on St. Thomas by Cajetan (d.
1534); the writings of Bartholomew de Medina (d. 1581), called the
father of moderate Probabilism; the _De Paenitentia_ of Lugo (d. 1660),
a handbook that combines speculative and casuistical theology; the
_Roman Catechism_, which was issued by the authority of the Council of
Trent in 1566; the _Theologia Moralis_ of St. Alphonsus Liguori (d.
1787), a work whose authority is universally recognized; the celebrated
treatise on the virtues by Lessius (d. 1623); the classic work of
Suarez (d. 1617), _De Religione_; the _Summa Casuum Conscientiae_ of
Toletus (d. 1596); the commentaries of Francis de Victoria (d. 1546),
which are writings of extraordinary merit. More recent works are so
numerous that it is impossible to mention them here.

18. Among the many modern works on Moral Theology which have been
published abroad, not a few are in the vernacular--in German, French,
Italian, Spanish, etc. While they are not intended to replace the Latin
text-books used in seminaries, these are nevertheless a very great help
to a fuller knowledge of the matter treated and to a more ready use of
it in the work of the ministry.

So far there has been a dearth of works on Moral Theology in English;
and it is this want that has occasioned the present work, which aims at
presenting Moral Theology, not only in its essentials, but even more in
detail and with greater fullness than is done by most of the text-books
commonly in use. And yet, while pursuing this larger and more
comprehensive plan, the authors of this new work have tried to be as
brief and compact as possible. It has been their endeavor especially to
avoid digressions into other fields and to sum up pertinent matter in
as clear and simple a manner as the subjects treated will permit.

17. The Division and Order of Parts in Moral Theology.--The arrangement
of his matter made by St. Thomas Aquinas in the _Summa Theologica_ is
admittedly unsurpassed and unsurpassable in the qualities that good
distribution should have, viz., clearness, connection between parts,
completeness. Hence, we cannot do better than follow the order he has
used in his treatment of moral subjects. His general division is as

(1) The Last End of Man.--From the Last End acts derive their morality,
those being good that advance man towards its attainment, and those
evil that turn him away from its possession. The Last End is
considered; (a) as to its existence; (b) as to its nature (i.e., the
constituents of supreme beatitude).

(2) The General Means Tending to the Last End.--God is approached, not
by the steps of the body, but by the operations of the soul, and thus
it is human acts that lead one to one's Last End. These acts are
considered: (a) as they are in themselves or absolutely, and according
to the twofold division of acts proper to man (human acts) and acts
common to man and beast (passions); (b) as to the internal principles
from which they proceed, i.e., habits, whether good (virtues) or bad
(vices); (c) as to the external principles by which they are
influenced. The external principle of evil is the demon, who tempts man
to sin. The external principle of good is God, who instructs us by His
law and the voice of conscience, and assists us by His grace.

(3) The Special Means Tending to the Last End.--These are our own good
works; hence, here are considered the virtues incumbent on all classes
of men, i.e., the theological and moral virtues.

18. Some of the topics just mentioned (e.g., divine grace) are
discussed fully in works on Dogmatic Theology, and hence may be omitted
here. Again, since the Last End of man is considered at great length in
dogmatic works on Eschatology, little need be said about it here.
Hence, it will be convenient to divide this work into two parts as
follows: General Moral Theology, in which are treated the more remote
principles on duty, such as the Last End, human acts, good and bad
habits, laws and conscience, grace; (b) Special Moral Theology, in
which are treated the more immediate rules concerning duty, i.e., man's
obligations as regards the virtues and the Commandments.



Question I



(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 1-5; _Contra Gentes_, IV, cc. 1-63.)

19. Existence of the Last End.--Every deliberate act proceeds from the
will, and, since the will pursues good as its goal, it follows that
every deliberate act is done for some good or end. But, if this end is
an imperfect good, it is desired not for itself but as leading up to a
perfect good, that is, to one which will leave nothing beyond it to be
desired; in other words, the intermediate end is willed on account of a
last end. Hence, all that a man wills, he wills directly or indirectly
on account of a last end. All men desire their own happiness and
perfection; but not all understand in what beatitude consists, since
some aim ultimately at finite goods.

20. Nature of the Last End.--As man's Last End is that object which
will make him perfectly happy, it cannot consist: (a) in external
goods, such as wealth, honors, fame, glory and power, since one might
have all these and yet be very unhappy; (b) in goods of the body, such
as health, beauty, pleasure and strength, since all these things are
passing, and moreover satisfy only a part, and that the lower part, of
man; (c) in goods of the soul, such as wisdom or virtue, since man's
intellect is never content with particular truth, nor his will with
particular good, the former always reaching out for the highest truth,
the latter for the highest good. Hence, the Last End of man is the
Infinite Good, or God "who satisfieth thy desire" (Psalm cii. 5).

21. Attainment of the Last End.--God being supersensible, the act by
which He is attained cannot be any operation of the senses, but must be
an act of the higher powers. Man possesses his Last End through the
vision of God, from which result beatific love and every good that is
compatible with the glorified state. For "we see now through a glass in
a dark manner, but then face to face" (I Cor., xiii. 12); and there
shall be "glory and honor and peace to everyone that worketh good"
(Rom, ii. 10).


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 6-17.)

22. Human acts are a means to man's Last End, inasmuch as they are
meritorious--i.e., labors that deserve a recompense (I Cor., iii. 8),
struggles that deserve a crown (II Tim., ii. 5). But works are not
meritorious unless they are one's own (human) and good (moral); and,
since the reward is supernatural, they must also be the fruit of grace.
Hence, we shall speak of acts in the following order: (a) acts as human
and free (Art. 2); (b) acts as morally good (Art. 3); (c) acts as
supernaturally meritorious (Art. 4).

23. Definition.--Those acts are called human of which a man is the
master, and he is master of his actions in virtue of his reason and his
will, which faculties make him superior to non-human agents that act
without reason and freedom. Hence, the following kinds of acts done by
a human being are not called human: (a) those that are not under the
control of the mind, because one is permanently or temporarily without
the use of reason or without knowledge (e.g., the acts done by the
insane; by those who are unconscious or delirious, under the influence
of hypnotism or drugs, distracted or carried away by vehement fear,
anger, etc.; by infants and uninstructed persons); (b) those that are
not under the control of the will, even though they are known (e.g.,
automatic acts, such as the acts of the vegetative powers, growth,
circulation of the blood; pathological acts, such as convulsions; acts
done under external violence).

24. Knowledge Requisite for a Human Act.--An act is human, or
voluntary, when it is deliberately desired; and, since nothing can be
deliberately desired unless it is known, an act done without knowledge
is not human or voluntary. Thus, a delirious patient does not will the
language he uses, for his mind is confused and he does not understand
what he is saying.

25. The condition of a person without knowledge is ignorance, which is
defined as the absence of knowledge in one who is capable of knowing.
Ignorance is of various kinds. From the viewpoint of that which is not
known (i.e., of the object of the ignorance), there is ignorance of the
substance of an act and ignorance of the quality of an act. For
example, Titus driving rapidly in the dark runs over and kills a pet
animal of his neighbor, but knows nothing of this happening (ignorance
of the substance of the act); Balbus, a child, fires a pistol at his
playmate, not knowing that this causes death (ignorance of the physical
quality of an act), and that it is the sin of murder (ignorance of the
moral quality of an act).

26. With reference to the will of the person who is ignorant, three
kinds of ignorance may be distinguished.

(a) Ignorance is concomitant (simultaneous with the act of the will),
when it is not voluntary, and yet is not therefore the reason of the
act that follows it, since that act would have been done, even had
there been knowledge. This may be illustrated by the example of a
hunter who intended to kill an enemy, and killed him only accidentally
while shooting at an animal.

(b) Ignorance is consequent (after the act of the will), when it is
voluntary, which may happen in different ways: first, when ignorance is
affected, as when a person expressly desires to remain ignorant about
his duties, so that he may have an excuse for his sins, or that he may
not be disturbed in his evil life; secondly, when he neglects to
acquire the knowledge he ought to possess, as when a hunter kills a
man, thinking him an animal, because he took no pains to be sure before

(c) Ignorance is antecedent (before the act of the will), when it is
not voluntary, and is the cause of the act that follows since the act
would not have been done, if there had been knowledge. For example, a
hunter who has used reasonable diligence to avoid accidents, kills a
man whom he mistook for a deer.

27. With reference to the responsibility of the person who is ignorant,
there are two kinds of ignorance. (a) Ignorance is invincible when it
cannot be removed, even by the use of all the care that ordinarily
prudent and conscientious persons would use in the circumstances. Thus,
a person who has no suspicions of his ignorance, or who has tried in
vain to acquire instruction about his duties, is invincibly ignorant.
(b) Ignorance is vincible when it can be removed by the exercise of
ordinary care. There are various degrees of this species of ignorance:
first, it is merely vincible, when some diligence has been exercised,
but not enough; secondly, it is crass or supine, when hardly any
diligence has been used; thirdly, it is affected, when a person
deliberately aims to continue in ignorance.

28. Influence of the Various Kinds of Ignorance on the Voluntariness of
Acts.--(a) Ignorance of an act, whether as to its substance or quality,
makes an act involuntary, when the ignorance itself is involuntary, as
will be explained in paragraph 29. Hence, if we refer to ignorance that
is not blameworthy and to the guilt of violating the law of God, we may
say: "Ignorance excuses."

(b) Ignorance does not make an act involuntary before human law, unless
the law itself presumes the ignorance or the ignorance is proved, as
will be explained in the Question on Law (see 489 sqq.). For, when law
is sufficiently promulgated or a fact pertains to one's own self, the
presumption is that ignorance does not exist, or that it is culpable.
Hence, the general rule of law common to all forms of jurisprudence:
"Ignorance does not excuse" (cfr. Canon 16 of the Code of Canon Law).

29. Effects of Concomitant, Consequent, and Antecedent Ignorance.--(a)
Concomitant ignorance does not make an act involuntary, because it does
not cause anything that is contrary to the will; but it does make the
act that is performed non-voluntary, since what is unknown cannot be
actually desired.

(b) Consequent ignorance cannot make an act entirely involuntary, since
such ignorance is itself voluntary; but it does in a certain respect
make an act involuntary, i.e., inasmuch as the act would not have been
done save for the ignorance. (c) Antecedent ignorance makes an act
entirely involuntary.

30. Effects of Invincible and Vincible Ignorance.--(a) Invincible
ignorance, even of what pertains to the natural law, makes an act
involuntary, since nothing is willed except what is understood. Hence,
no matter how wrong an act is in itself, the agent is not guilty of
formal sin (see 249), if he is invincibly ignorant of the malice

(b) Vincible ignorance does not make an act involuntary, since the
ignorance itself is voluntary; hence, it does not excuse from sin. It
does not even make an act less voluntary and less sinful, if the
ignorance is affected in order that one may have an excuse; for such a
state of mind shows that the person would act the same way, even though
he had knowledge.

31. Vincible ignorance makes an act less voluntary and less sinful: (a)
when the ignorance is not affected, for the voluntariness is measured
by the knowledge, and knowledge here is lacking; (b) when the
ignorance, though affected, was fostered only through fear that
knowledge might compel a stricter way of life; for such a state of mind
seems to show that one would not act the same way if one had knowledge.

32. Like to ignorance are the following: (a) error, which is a judgment
not in agreement with the facts (e.g., Balbus, a young child, thinks
stealing is lawful, because older persons are represented as stealing
in the moving pictures); (b) forgetfulness, which is ignorance of what
was once known (e.g., Titus made a study of his duties as a Catholic
when he was young, but at present what he does not know about those
duties is not inconsiderable); (c) inadvertence, which is a lack of
attention to what is being done (e.g., Caius, who is absent-minded,
sometimes gets his hair cut and goes away without paying, or takes
money that does not belong to him).

33. The principles and conclusions given above with regard to ignorance
will apply also to error, forgetfulness and inadvertence; for in all
these cases the lack of actual knowledge at the moment an act is done,
is either willed or not willed, and accordingly the act itself is
either voluntary or not voluntary. In the examples mentioned above,
Balbus does not will the guilt of theft, since he does not know it; but
his elders do will that guilt, because they should know it. Titus is
responsible for neglecting his duties, if he has forgotten them through
his own neglect of them or other fault; otherwise, he is not
responsible. Caius' inattention is involuntary, if due to mental
concentration or distraction, and if it is not desired by him; it is
voluntary, if he is aware of it and cultivates it, or if he does not
try to be more attentive to his duties.

34. Consent Requisite for a Human Act.--To be human, an act must
proceed not only from knowledge, but also from inclination; that is, it
must be voluntary. Three things are necessary in order that an act be
voluntary: (a) it must be agreeable to an internal principle, i.e., in
most moral matters to the will. Hence, an act that is done against
one's will on account of external violence is not voluntary; (b) it
must be caused by the will. Hence, a shower of rain is said to be
agreeable to the gardener, but not voluntary since his will is not its
cause; (c) it must be performed with a conscious purpose. Hence,
natural acts (such as sleeping) and spontaneous acts (such as stroking
one's beard absent-mindedly) are not voluntary acts.

35. Kinds of Voluntary Acts.-(a) A voluntary act is free or necessary,
according as one can or cannot abstain from it. The vision of God in
heaven is voluntary to the blessed, since they look at Him knowingly
and gladly; but it is not free, since they cannot avert their gaze from
that which makes them blessed. The love of God on earth is voluntary,
since chosen; but it is also free, since man is able to turn away from

(b) An act is perfectly or imperfectly voluntary, according as the
deliberation and consent that precede it are full or only partial.

(c) An act is said to be simply--that is, absolutely--voluntary, when
it is wished under circumstances that exist here and now, although in
itself, apart from those circumstances, it is not wished. It is said to
be voluntary under a certain aspect, when it is desired for itself, but
not under existing conditions. Thus, if an arm needs to be amputated to
save life, the amputation is absolutely voluntary, while the
preservation of the arm is voluntary only in a certain respect. Hence,
an act is voluntary simply or absolutely when one chooses it, all
things considered; it remains involuntary under a certain respect,
inasmuch as the choice is made with reluctance.

(d) An act is voluntary in itself or directly, when it is desired in
itself for its own sake (i.e., as an end), or for the sake of something
else (i.e., as a means). It is voluntary in its cause or indirectly,
when it is not desired in itself, either as a means or an end, but is
foreseen as the result of something else that is intended. Examples:
Titus quarrels with his neighbors, at times because he likes to
quarrel, and at other times because he wishes to make them fear him;
hence, his quarrels are directly voluntary. Caius is a peaceful man who
dislikes quarreling; but he likes to drink too much occasionally,
although he knows that he always quarrels when he is under the
influence of liquor. Thus, his quarrels are indirectly voluntary.

36. An act is voluntary in its cause in two ways: (a) approvingly
(physically and morally voluntary in cause), when one is able and
obliged not to perform the act that is its cause (e.g., the quarrels of
Caius mentioned above are approved implicitly by him, since he could
and should prevent the intoxication which is their cause); (b)
permissively (physically voluntary in cause), when one is not able or
not obliged to omit the act that is its cause (see 94 sqq.). Examples:
Balbus, in order to make a living, has to associate with persons of
quarrelsome character, and as a result often hears shocking disputes.
Titus, a military commander, orders an enemy fortification to be
bombarded, although he knows that this will involve the destruction of
other property and the unavoidable killing of some non-combatants or
neutrals. Caius writes a book whose purpose and natural result is
edification, but he foresees that evil-minded persons will
misunderstand it and take scandal.

37. Omissions, as well as acts, may be voluntary. (a) Thus, they are
directly voluntary, when they are willed as an end or as a means to an
end. Example: Titus fails to reprove the disorders of those in his
charge because he likes disorder, or because it illustrates his theory
that everyone should go through  an evolution from roughness to
refinement. (b) They are indirectly voluntary, when their cause is
willed with approval or permitted with disapproval. Example: Balbus
does not like to miss Mass, but he fails to rise from bed when he hears
the church bell ringing, and as a result does not get to church. If his
failure to get up was due to laziness, the omission of Mass was
approved by Balbus; if it was due to illness, the omission was only

38. The effect that follows upon an omission may also be voluntary. (a)
Thus, it is directly voluntary, if the omission is chosen as a means to
the effect. Example: Caius hears Titus say that he is going to make a
certain business deal, and he knows that Titus will suffer a great loss
thereby; but he wishes Titus to lose his money, and therefore says
nothing about the danger. (b) It is indirectly voluntary, if one
foresees the effect, and approves or permits it. Examples: Balbus sees
Titus attacked by a hoodlum and realizes that, unless assisted, Titus
will be badly beaten up; but he is such an admirer of pugilism that, in
spite of his sorrow for Titus, he decides not to stop the fight. Caius
sees his friend Sempronius drowning, and fails to go to his assistance,
because to his regret he is not an expert swimmer.

39. The effect of an omission is indirectly voluntary and approved by
the will when one is able and bound to do what one omits. Example:
Balbus receives some confidential documents with the understanding that
he will guard them sacredly; but fearing to lose the good graces of
Titus, who is curious and loquacious, he omits to put the papers away
as promised, with the result that Titus finds them and reads them.

40. Obstacles to Consent.--The obstacles to consent are all those
factors that take away or lessen the voluntariness of an act. (a) Thus,
the actual obstacles that affect the intellect are reduced to
ignorance, spoken of above; those that affect the will are passion and
fear, and that which affects the external powers is coercion. (b) The
habitual obstacles are habits and abnormal mental states.

41. Fear is a disturbance of mind caused by the thought that a future
danger is impending. It is an obstacle to consent in various ways: (a)
it lessens or takes away freedom of judgment, inasmuch as it hinders or
suspends the reasoning processes; (b) it lessens the voluntariness of
choice, inasmuch as it makes one decide for what is not of itself

42. An act done under fear that impeded the use of judgment is: (a)
involuntary, if the fear was so great that one was temporarily out of
one's mind. Example: Titus is so panic-stricken at the thought that a
wild animal is pursuing him that he fires a revolver in every
direction; (b) less voluntary, if the fear prevents one from thinking
with calmness and deliberation. Example: Caius is being questioned by a
stern examiner who demands an immediate reply. Fearing to hesitate,
Caius gives what he knows is a "bluffing" answer.

43. The acts of one who is under fear are of various kinds.

(a) Acts are done with fear, when the fear is concomitant--i.e., when
it is not willed and does not cause the act, but is merely its occasion
or would rather prevent it. Examples: Julius is ordered under pain of
death to drink a glass of wine, a thing he was intending to do and
which he would have done even without any threats. Balbus walks along a
lonely road, because he must get home, but he trembles at the thought
of robbers. Caius, a highwayman, at the point of the revolver, forces
Balbus to hand over his purse, but he fears that the police may arrive
before he has secured the money. Titus, a business man, makes a trip by
air, because he must reach another city without delay, but he has some
apprehensions about his safety. All these men act, not because of, but
apart from or in spite of their fears.

(b) Acts are done through fear, when fear causes an act that would not
otherwise be performed. The fear may be antecedent (i.e., unwilled) or
consequent (i.e., willed). Examples: Balbus, in the case mentioned
above, surrendered his purse because of involuntary fear which was
caused by the revolver of the robber. Claudius makes an act of sorrow
for sin because of voluntary fear which he produces by thinking of the
punishment of hell.

44. The effects of fear, which do not take away the use of reason, on
the voluntariness of acts are as follows.

(a) Acts done with fear are not made really involuntary on account of
the fear that accompanies them, for they are done for their own sake,
not out of fear or as a consequence of fear. They may be called
relatively involuntary in the sense that, by reason of fear, they are
comparatively unpleasant, unless one enjoys the thrill of danger.
Examples: Balbus, Caius and Titus, in the cases mentioned above, acted
with perfect willingness. Whether they enjoyed their experiences or
not, depends on their attitudes towards adventure and excitement.

(b) Acts done through fear are voluntary simply and absolutely, for the
act done under the impulse of fear is what the agent considers here and
now as most desirable. Examples: Balbus' surrender of his purse and
Claudius' act of contrition are just what these two men wish to do as
best suited to the circumstances.

(c) Acts done through fear are involuntary in a certain respect, if the
agent can retain his inclination towards the opposite of the act and
still avoid what he fears; otherwise, they are in no way involuntary.
Examples: Balbus retains his liking for the money taken from him by
force, and hence the surrender of it to the highwayman, although
voluntary, if all things are considered, is not voluntary, if only the
money itself is considered. Claudius, on the contrary, retains no
liking for his sins, for he knows that, if he does, he will defeat the
purpose of his act of sorrow, which is to escape the pains of hell;
hence, his contrition, although the result of fear, is in no respect

45. Passion is a movement of the sensitive appetite towards its object
through love, desire, hope, or its repose therein through delight. It
tends towards good, as fear tends away from evil (see 117 sqq.).
Passion is an obstacle to consent in the following ways: (a) it takes
away voluntariness (i.e., the quality of proceeding from an internal
principle with knowledge of the end of the act), whenever it is so
intense as to prevent knowledge; (b) it diminishes liberty (i.e., the
quality of being perfectly voluntary, or indifferent as between many
acts), even when it does not prevent knowledge.

46. Spiritual appetites fortify the reason, but the opposite is true of
sensible appetites; for these latter draw all the attention to things
that are lower and away from those that are higher, and impede the
exercise of imagination and other senses that serve the reason. In
extreme and rare cases passion may be so intense as to distract from or
prevent altogether the exercise of reason, or to produce insanity.
Thus, we sometimes hear of persons losing their minds through affection
for money, or of performing irrational deeds under the excitement of

47. With reference to the will, passion is twofold. (a) It is
antecedent, when it precedes the act of the will and causes it. In this
case the passion arises not from the will, but from some other cause
(e.g., the bodily state, as when a sick man longs for food that is
forbidden). (b) Passion is consequent when it follows the act of the
will and results from it. This may happen either without the will
choosing the passion (as when the very vehemence with which the will
desires some object causes a corresponding sensitive emotion to
awaken), or because the will has deliberately aroused the emotion in
order to be able the better to act through its cooperation.

48. Antecedent passion makes an act more voluntary, since it makes the
will tend with greater inclination to its object; but it likewise makes
an act less free, since it impedes deliberation and disturbs the power
of choice. Example: A man who takes extreme delight in sports, plays
voluntarily, but is less free than if he were not so immoderately
inclined that way.

49. Consequent passion which results naturally from an intense act of
the will does not increase the voluntariness of the act, since it is
not its cause; but it does show that the act of the will is intense,
for it is only that which is willed vehemently that overflows from the
will and affects the emotions.

50. Consequent passion which results from the deliberate choice of the
will increases the voluntariness of the act that follows, since the act
is performed with greater intensity on account of the passion that has
been deliberately excited.

51. What has been said about the passions that tend to sensible good
can be applied also to the passions that are concerned with sensible
evils, such as hatred, sadness, aversion, boldness, anger. If they are
antecedent, they increase the voluntariness of an act, but diminish its
freedom; and, if they cause a passing frenzy or insanity, they take
away all responsibility. If they are consequent, they either increase
the willingness of the act, or indicate that it is willed with great

52. Violence, or coercion, is the use of force by an external agent to
compel one to do what one does not want to do. Its effects on
voluntariness are: (a) it cannot affect the internal act of the will,
else we should have the contradiction that the act of the will was both
voluntary, as proceeding from the will, and involuntary, as proceeding
from external coercion; (b) it can affect external acts, such as
walking, and so make them involuntary. If a boy is driven to school,
the violence makes his going involuntary, but it does not make his will
not to go to school involuntary.

53. Habits.--Characteristic of habits is a constant inclination,
resulting from repeated acts, to perform similar acts (see 133 for
definition of habit). Its effect[s] on the voluntariness of acts are:

(a) if the habit is in a sense involuntary, i.e., caused by free acts
but retracted by a sincere act of contrition, it diminishes or even
takes away voluntariness. If the actual advertence to the act is
imperfect, the voluntariety is diminished; if advertence is totally
absent, all voluntariety is taken away. Thus a drunkard who retracts
his habit and makes an act of true contrition may again fall into sin
because of the acquired dispositions to drink. Then the sins are less
voluntary or at times, owing to total lack of advertence, may be
regarded solely as material sins.

(b) if the habit is voluntary, i.e., acquired by free acts and not
retracted, it increases the voluntariness in respect to the inclination
to act. Should all advertence and deliberation be taken away, a rare
occurrence, it diminishes the liberty of the act and consequently its
morality as good or bad. Voluntariety, however, is not taken away
entirely, since the habit itself was freely willed and hence acts
flowing from it are voluntary in cause (see 35.). If sufficient
advertence remains, the habit diminishes the freedom of the act owing
to the impeding of reason; but this diminution of liberty is in accord
with the will of the individual who freely contracted and conserves the
habit to have facility in acting. Accordingly, absolutely speaking, a
voluntary habit increases the voluntariety of acts caused by that habit
and consequently increases their goodness or evil. Thus St. Thomas
asserts that one who sins from habit sins from certain malice, i.e.,
not from ignorance or passion, but from the will's own choice.

54. Natural propensities are inclinations that arise from bodily
constitution or physical condition (e.g., a strong native attraction to
temperance or to intemperance not acquired by frequent acts). Natural
propensities have the same kind of influence on the willingness of an
act as involuntary habits (see 53.).

55. Pathological states are diseases of the brain or nerves that react
upon the intellect and the will, such as various kinds of neuroses and
psychoses, hysteria and epilepsy. The influence of pathological states
on the voluntariness of acts seems similar in kind to that ascribed to
antecedent passion (see 48.). Caution must be observed in applying
these principles to particular kinds of mental diseases.[1]

[1] In doubt whether an act associated with a pathological state is
free or not, the rule of moralists is lenient. When the act is sinful,
it is not imputed as gravely sinful, for man is innocent until proven
guilty. If the act is good, it is presumed voluntary and free and,
consequently, meritorious. See Prummer, D.M., O.P., _Manuale Theologiae
Moralis_ (Barcelona: Herder, 1946), I. n.93.

56. Two Kinds of Voluntary Acts.--Having discussed human or voluntary
acts in general, we shall now indicate in particular the acts that are
of this kind. There are two classes of voluntary acts: (a) those
elicited by the will; (b) those commanded by the will.

57. Acts Elicited by the Will.--The first class of acts under the
control of the will are those that are performed by the will
itself--i.e., that are begun and completed in that power of the soul.

58. There are three acts of the will that are directed to the end the
will has in view, viz., wish, intention and fruition. Wish is the love
or inclination of the will towards the end without any reference to the
means by which it is to be obtained: this is the first act of the will.
Intention is the direction of the will to the gaining of the end
through certain means. Fruition is the enjoyment of the end after it
has been gained: this is the last act of the will.

59. There are three acts of the will that are directed to the means and
that follow after intention, viz., consent, election, and use. Consent
follows upon the counsel of the intellect, and is an act of the will
agreeing to several means as suitable for the intended end. Election
follows after a practical judgment of the intellect about the means
consented to, and is an act of the will which chooses one of the means
in preference to the others, as being most suitable for gaining the
intended end. Use is the act by which the will directs and moves the
other powers to employ the particular means that has been chosen.

60. Acts Commanded by the Will.--The second class of acts that are
under the control of the will are those that proceed, not from the will
itself, but from the other powers under the direction of the will.

61. Acts commanded by the will are of various kinds: (a) intellectual
acts, such as judgment, reasoning, etc., performed under the direction
of the will, (b) sensible acts such as sight, hearing, imagination, the
passions of love, hate, etc.; (c) external corporal acts, such as
walking, writing, etc. None of the foregoing acts need be commanded by
the will, as they may be indeliberate (see 23).

62. The following kinds of acts are not subject to the control of the
will: (a) intellectual acts, such as the assent of the reason to
self-evident truths, as regards the specification of the act; (b)
sensible acts, such as the passions considered as arising from bodily
dispositions before they are adverted to; (c) acts of the vegetative
life, such as digestion and growth; (d) bodily movements, such as the
circulation of the blood and the beating of the heart.


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 18-20.)

63. In order that an act be a means by which man may tend to his Last
End, it is not sufficient that it be human (proceeding from knowledge
and will); it must also be morally good.

64. Definition.--Morality is the agreement or disagreement, of a human
act with the norms that regulate human conduct with reference to man's
Last End. The act which is in agreement with those norms is morally
good; the act which is in disagreement with them is morally bad. An act
that neither agrees nor disagrees with the norms of morality, is called
morally indifferent.

65. The constitutive norm of morality is that which gives an act its
moral quality. (a) Proximately, this is the relation of agreement or
disagreement of the act to the rational nature of man considered in its
entirety and with reference to its true happiness; (b) remotely, this
norm is the relation of the act to God, the Last End of man.

66. Hence, that which makes an act morally good is its agreement with
the nature of man as a rational being destined for heaven, and its
promotion of the glory of God, which is the purpose of all creation.

67. The manifestative norm of morality is that through which the moral
quality of acts is known. (a) Proximately, this is right reason, which
is the superior faculty and guide of the will; (b) remotely, it is the
divine intellect, from which reason receives its light.

68. The preceptive norm of morality is that which points out duty with
respect to good and evil. (a) Proximately, it is conscience; (b)
remotely, it is the law of God.

69. The species of morality are three: (a) an act is morally good when
it is in harmony with the norms of morality mentioned above (e.g.,
prayer, works of charity); (b) an act is morally bad when it is out of
harmony with those norms (e.g., blasphemy, injustice); (c) an act is
morally indifferent when, if considered in the abstract, it neither
agrees nor disagrees with moral norms (e.g., walking, riding, etc.).

70. The Sources of Morality.--The sources from which the morality of an
act is derived are its own tendencies and modes, in so far as they have
a relation of agreement or disagreement to the standards of morals.
These sources are: (a) the object of the act, from which it derives its
essence (e.g., God is the object of charity); (b) the circumstances of
the act, by which it is modified accidentally (e.g., fervor is a
circumstance of the act of charity); (c) the purpose or end of the
agent, which is the chief circumstance (e.g., to please God, as the
purpose of a work of charity).

71. The object of an action is that to which it primarily and naturally
tends as to its term and end, and from which it is named. Thus, an alms
is directed immediately and of its own nature to the relief of the poor
(end of the act); it is only secondarily and from the direction given
it by the agent that it tends to generosity and edification, since the
agent may give stingily, or from a bad motive (end of the agent).

72. The circumstances are all those conditions, different from the
object, that affect the morality of the act. The chief moral
circumstances are: (a) the time (i.e., the duration, the character of
the day, as a holyday, fast-day, etc.); (b) the place (i.e., in public
or in private, in church or elsewhere, etc.); (c) the manner (i.e., the
advertence or inadvertence, the cruelty, etc.); (d) the quantity or
quality of the thing done (e.g., that an alms is large or small, that
the person who is helped is more or less deserving, etc.); (e) the
purpose of the agent (e.g., that an alms is given to honor God); (f)
the quality or condition of the agent (e.g., that the giver of an alms
is poor himself); (g) the means used (e.g., that a benefactor's own
money is used against himself).

73. With reference to their influence on the moral character of acts,
circumstances are divided as follows: (a) circumstances that change the
kind of morality, by making what was good to be bad, what was
indifferent to be good or bad, what was venial to be mortal, what
belonged to one class of mortal sins to take on another character,
etc.; (b) circumstances that change the degree of morality, by making a
good act more or less good, or by making a bad act more or less bad.

74. The purpose or end of an action is the reason which induces the
agent to act. It is the chief circumstance of an act, and hence is
treated as a separate source of morality.

75. The end or purpose is twofold. (a) It is the total end when it
alone is intended, so that the action is done with no other aim in
mind. Thus, if one helps the poor only to practise charity, the total
motive is charity. (b) The end is partial when it is intended along
with another motive of equal or unequal force. Thus, if a person helps
the poor in order to relieve them and also to benefit temporarily by
his charity, the assistance of others is only a partial motive of his
act; and if he would not give alms except in view of the personal
advantage he expects, charity becomes the secondary motive.

76. Good Acts.-An act is said to be entirely good when all its
elements--its object, circumstances and purpose--are in conformity with
the standards of morality. Thus, an alms given to one in need, in a
considerate manner, and purely out of love for God, is good in every
respect. Furthermore, the fact that the circumstances and purpose of
the act are good increases the goodness derived from the object of the

77. An act is likewise entirely good when at least one of its elements
is good, the others being indifferent, and none evil; for it is the
good alone that is intended (see 85), and this gives the moral color to
the whole act. This happens as follows: (a) when the object is
indifferent and the purpose good, as when one takes a walk for the
purpose of performing a work of mercy; (b) when the object is
indifferent and a circumstance good, as when one eats a meal with
intentional moderation; (c) when the object is good and a circumstance
indifferent, as when one prays with unintentional stammering.

78. An act is partly good when, while its object is good, there is some
evil in the circumstances that does not neutralize or transform the
object. This happens in the following cases: (a) when the object is
good and some minor circumstance, not intended as affecting the
substance of the act, is evil, as when a person prays with
distractions; (b) when the object is good and a partial, but not
predominant motive is slightly evil, as when a person prays in public
in order to give edification and also incidentally to help his
reputation. In both these cases the good--i.e., the worship of God--is
desired for itself as good, and the evil that is simultaneously desired
does not change this good object.

79. Bad Acts.-An act is called entirely evil when all its elements--its
object, circumstances and purpose-are contrary to the moral norms.
Thus, to steal, on a large scale, in order to drive the victim to
desperation is an act that is entirely wrong. The wickedness of the
circumstance and of the motive increases the wickedness of the object
of the act.

80. An act is likewise called entirely bad, when one or more of its
elements are of themselves good or indifferent, but when there is an
element which is evil and which neutralizes or transforms the good.
This happens in various ways:

(a) when the object is evil, and the purpose is good, as when one
steals in order to pay one's debts. The good end is wished only as
obtainable through a wicked means, and thus ceases to be good;

(b) when the object is good or indifferent, and the total purpose is
evil, as when one talks or prays with no other motive than to annoy
another person. The good is willed, not as good, but only as a means to

(c) when the object is good or indifferent, and a partial but ulterior
purpose is evil. For example, if a person extinguishes a fire in order
to save a neighbor's house and thus be enabled to rob him; if a person
takes physical exercises to develop his strength so as to be enabled to
bully a neighbor. The good act and the immediate end in these cases are
intended not for the sake of their goodness, but as instruments to the
accomplishment of the evil ulterior end;

(d) when the object is good or indifferent, and an evil circumstance is
intended, not as a circumstance, but as forming a unit with the object
and as affecting the substance of the act--for example, when a person
intends prayer precisely as distracted, thus converting prayer into a
sin. The good object is willed in such cases, not as good, but as
vitiated by an evil circumstance.

81. Although an act is totally evil when the good in it is absorbed by
the evil, the presence of what is good in itself can diminish, though
it cannot take away, the evil. Thus, to lie in order to help a neighbor
is totally evil; yet, it is not as great an evil as to lie to hurt that

82. Indifferent Acts.--An act is entirely indifferent if all the
elements in it--its object, circumstances and purpose--are neither
harmonious nor discordant with the standards of morality. Such an act
would be walking home rapidly in order to eat a meal, if besides these
factors, which bear no relation to good morals, there was nothing else
in the act that did bear such a relation.

83. As to the actual existence of a human or voluntary act that is
morally indifferent, we conclude: (a) Considered in the abstract and
universally, some human acts are morally indifferent; for if acts be
considered with reference to their objects alone and apart from the
circumstances that accompany them, and as they are classified in the
mind, it is clear that many of them have no determinate relations to
moral norms--e.g., reading, writing, walking, etc. (one can read either
good or bad literature); (b) considered in the concrete, and as they
happen in individual cases, no human acts are morally indifferent,
since the purpose of the agent is either according to right reason or
against it, so that, in spite of the indifferent object, the act
becomes either good or bad by reason of the presence or absence of the
good purpose.

84. Considered even in the concrete and in individual cases, all acts
that are not human, but indeliberate or involuntary (see 23 sqq.), are
morally indifferent--or, more correctly, unmoral, as being outside the
genus of moral acts on account of the absence in them of will, which is
the prerequisite of morality. Thus, absent-minded acts are neither good
nor bad morally.

85. As to the kind of intention required to make an indifferent act
morally good, or which should be had when the act is objectively good,
we conclude: (a) The good intended must not be solely a sensible good
(i.e., the pleasure that the act gives), but also and chiefly a
rational good (i.e., its conformity to moral standards), since man,
unlike the animals, was made, not for sensible, but for rational good.
Hence, to eat deliberately with no other end than that of gratifying
the palate, is to eat without a moral purpose worthy of a human being,
and is a bad act.

(b) The moral good of virtue which is intended in acts must not be
regarded as the supreme good, but should be referred to God, since He
alone is the Last End (see 20). Hence, to eat and drink with moderation
solely because that is reasonable and suitable to human nature, if one
excludes the Last End, is to slight the necessary purpose and is
morally bad. (c) The intention of moral good or virtue in human acts
need not be actual or reflex. Thus, a person who has a previously
formed intention of living reasonably, or who at the time of eating
intends to eat moderately for the sake of health, sufficiently intends
a moral end. Likewise, it is not necessary that the reference of an act
to the Last End be made actually or explicitly. Hence, every person in
the friendship of God, in all his deliberate acts that are not evil,
has a sufficient reference of them to God contained in the fact that he
has chosen God for his Last End, or in that here and now he intends
some motive that becomes a rational being.

86. An actual and explicit intention of the moral goodness of an act,
and an actual and explicit reference of the act to the Last End, though
not necessary, increase the moral value of what is done.

87. Axiom of Pseudo-Dionysius: "That act is good whose causes are
complete; that act is evil in which a single cause is lacking."

(a) This axiom can be understood as referring to perfect good, and the
meaning then is that an act is not perfectly good in the moral sense
unless all its elements--its object, purpose and circumstances--are
good; just as an oration is not called perfect, unless all its
elements--the speaker, the matter, the style and the delivery--are what
they should be. Hence, a single defect is enough to make an act fall
short of perfection.

(b) The axiom can be understood of essential goodness, and the meaning
then is that an act is not essentially good unless all the causes that
contribute to essential goodness--the object of the act and any
circumstances that may through the intention of the agent take on the
character of object--are good; just as a man is not said to be healthy,
unless his heart, lungs, and all the other chief parts of the body are
sound. Hence, an act is substantially bad, if either its own end (the
object of the act) or the special purpose had in mind by the agent (the
end of the agent) is bad, as explained above in 79-81.

88. The axiom of Dionysius does not mean: (a) that an act cannot be
essentially or substantially good and at the same time accidentally bad
(see 78), for, if even one circumstance not properly attended to could
change an act from good into bad, how few good acts would be done even
by the most saintly persons! Example: Caius who sacrifices himself for
the service of God and his neighbor, now and then feels some slight
vanity over his work. His acts remain substantially good. (b) The axiom
does not mean that an act cannot be substantially bad and yet have good
circumstances that diminish its badness (see 81).

89. Morality of the External Act.--Having considered the morality of
the internal act, we shall now turn to the external act (such as giving
an alms, stealing, and the like), and inquire whether it has a morality
of its own distinct from that of the internal act (see 56 Sqq.).

90. If the external act be considered precisely as it is the object, or
effect, of the internal act of the will, it does not add any essential
morality to the internal act, since, having no freedom of its own, it
is moral only in so far as it proceeds from the will. In this sense,
then, he who gives an alms to the poor, and he who would give it if he
could, are equal in goodness of will; and he who wishes to defraud, and
he who actually defrauds, are equal in malice of will.

91. If the external act be considered precisely as it is the term
towards which the internal act tends, it completes the essential
morality of the internal act by extending and communicating it without.
For, though this external act cannot add a distinct morality of its
own, it does carry the internal morality to its natural conclusion and
diffuses its good or evil. In this sense, he who actually gives an alms
is more deserving than he who really desires to give but is unable; and
he who really defrauds is more reprehensible than he who wishes to
defraud but cannot.

92. If the external act be considered precisely as something added to
the internal act, it can increase the accidental morality of the
internal act by the reaction of the external circumstances on the will.
This can happen in such ways as the following: (a) the performance of
the external act, being pleasurable or difficult, increases or
decreases the intensity of the will to act; (b) the performance of the
external act, since it requires more time than the internal act,
prolongs the latter; (c) the external act by reason of repetition may
also increase the strength of the internal act.

93. Furthermore, it is through the external act that edification or
scandal is given, that penalties or rewards for overt action are
deserved, etc. Examples: Titus bears murderous hatred towards Balbus,
but keeps it concealed. Caius also hates Balbus, and first calumniates
him, thus giving scandal, and then kills him, thus making himself
liable before the law.

94. The Morality of the Act That Is Indirectly Willed.--An act is said
to be willed indirectly, or in its cause, when it is foreseen as the
result of another act which alone is directly intended (see 35 sqq.).
According to the different moral character of the acts, there are four
cases in which the act is willed indirectly:

(a) when both the act directly willed and the resultant act are bad.
Examples: Titus is heartily opposed to quarreling and blasphemy; but he
makes himself drunk to forget his troubles, foreseeing that he will
quarrel and blaspheme while in that state. Balbus has a real dislike
for uncharitable thoughts; but he chooses the company of a notorious
scandalmonger in order to be amused, knowing that thoughts against
charity will be caused by listening to him;

(b) when the act directly willed is bad and the resultant act is good.
Example: Caius is very miserly when sober, but liberal when
intoxicated; to vary the monotony of his life, he decides to become
intoxicated, but grieves at the thought of the money he may give away
to some deserving charity before he returns to his senses. Sempronius
decides on an act of injustice with sorrow over the unbidden thoughts
of remorse or repentance that will follow his act;

(c) when both acts are good. Example: Out of charity Titus makes up his
mind to visit a pious relative who is ill; and he foresees that
thoughts of improving his own conduct--a thing not pleasing to
him--will be occasioned by this visit;

(d) when the act directly willed is good and the resultant act is bad.
Examples: Balbus takes a drug prescribed for his health, although he
foresees it will make him unable to go to church. Caius gives alms to
the poor, intending only an act of charity, but he knows that thoughts
of vainglory will arise.

95. The act indirectly willed sometimes gives, sometimes does not give,
a new morality. (a) Thus, if it is good, it adds no internal goodness,
since the will only permits, without intending the good act. Example:
Caius, who does not intend, but regretfully permits his act of charity
which he foresees, does not desire the act of charity. (b) If it is
bad, the act indirectly willed adds a bad act of the will, if the will
desires evil by permitting what it has no right to permit. Example:
Titus who does not prevent, when he should, what will lead to blasphemy
on his part, implicitly desires the act of blasphemy.

96. The Morality of the Consequences of an Act.--Man's life receives
its moral character, not only from his internal and external acts which
are done in the present and from those which he knows will result from
them in the future, but also from the influence his acts exercise now
and afterwards upon his fellowman. It is this influence upon others
that we now speak of as the consequences of an act. According to the
case, the consequences sometimes add, sometimes do not add, to the
morality of an act. The good men do lives after them, and also the
evil. There are various kinds of consequences:

(a) foreseen consequences, which, if intended, add to the morality of
an act, since it is clear that one who wishes the many good or evil
results of his act is better or worse in intention than another who has
no such wish. Thus, one who knows that many will be edified or
scandalized by his conduct, and wills the result, is better or worse
than if he had no such will about those consequences;

(b) unforeseen consequences, which, if they follow naturally and
usually from an act, make the act in itself better or Worse according
to their character. Thus, the teaching of Christian doctrine is good as
conveying a knowledge of truth, but it is made better on account of the
spiritual benefit of others that naturally results from it. Similarly,
the teaching of evil is made worse on account of the evil consequences
it usually produces;

(c) unforeseen consequences, which, if they follow only accidentally
and rarely from an act, do not affect its morality, since an act must
be judged by what belongs to its nature, not by what is merely
occasioned by it. Thus, the fact that an alms is used by the recipient
as a means to intemperance does not detract from the goodness of the
almsgiving done for the sake of charity. Likewise, the fact that an
injury is used by the sufferer as an occasion for spiritual profit does
not lessen the wickedness of the injurious act.

97. Imputability.--Just as an act may be an act done by man (i.e.,
higher than the operations of brutes) and yet not be human (i.e., not
performed in the manner that is proper to man as man; e.g., an act of
reasoning or of decision during a dream, see 23 sqq.), so an act may be
moral (i.e., in conformity or disagreement with the standards of right)
and yet not imputable as good or bad to the agent (e.g., a prayer or
imprecation said by an infant, or the drunkenness of one who did not
realize the power of a liquor).

98. Imputability is that property of an act by which it belongs to its
agent, not only in its physical nature as something of himself or as an
effect produced by him or in its human quality of subjection to his
will, but in its moral character of goodness or badness. From contact
with the moral object, the agent takes as his own something of the
brightness or defilement of that object, and so becomes chargeable
himself with goodness or badness.

99. The conditions for the imputability of an act are:

(a) the act must be human--i.e., it must be performed knowingly and
willingly (see 23 sqq.). One is not chargeable with the quality of the
act, if not responsible for its very substance. Example: Titus suffers
such intense pain that he does not know what he is saying, and he
blasphemes. The morality of blasphemy is not unknown to him, but his
present act is not voluntary, and hence is not imputable;

(b) the morality of the act must be known, or be something that should
be known, at least in a general way, to the agent; for no one is
responsible for what he is wholly ignorant of through no fault of his
own. Example: Titus, Caius, Balbus and Sempronius rob the orchard of
their neighbor. Titus in good faith thinks he is doing an act of
virtue, because the owner owes money to his companions. Caius thinks
that some kind of sin is being committed, but he does not know whether
it is theft, or gluttony, or what. Balbus thinks that only a venial sin
of stealing is being perpetrated. Sempronius, the youngest of the
crowd, looks on the whole affair as a part of the day's sport. All
committed theft, and the act is wrong; but Titus and Sempronius were
not guilty of sin, since they were in good faith. Caius and Balbus
committed sin, the species and degree depending on the knowledge they
had or should have had (see 588 sqq.);

(c) the morality of the act must be willed. If the act is good, the
goodness must be intended, since a person should not get credit for
what he does not wish. Example: Titus does not believe in virtue, and
Caius is opposed to helping the poor; but both give an alms to a
beggar, the former in order to get rid of the beggar, the latter in
order to get rid of some old clothes. Hence, neither wishes or receives
credit for the charity done. If the act is bad, the badness is
sufficiently intended by the performance of what one knows is forbidden
and wrong. The will chooses contact with the evil object, and thus
implicitly with the evil of the object. Example: Balbus protests that
he does not wish to harm anyone, and then proceeds to calumniate his
neighbors. His disavowal of sinful intent does not make him any the
less responsible for his calumny.

100. Imputability may be conceived as making one responsible for the
moral quality of an act in three ways: (a) generically, if one should
get the credit or diseredit of goodness or badness only; (b)
specifically as to kind, if one gets the credit or discredit of a
particular category of goodness or badness; (c) specifically as to
degree, if one gets the credit or discredit of higher or lower grades
of the same virtue or vice, or if one is made guilty of mortal or
venial sin. These points will be discussed in the articles on the
virtues and vices (see 186 sqq.).

101. Goodness is imputable as follows:

(a) As regards internal acts, a person is credited with all the
goodness of the object, end, and circumstances, in so far as it is
known and willed by him. Example: Titus purposes to pray in a
penitential posture, in order to obtain the virtue of humility. Hence,
he has the credit of worship, mortification and humility through his
holy desire. If he thought of the penitential posture, not as a moral
circumstance, or if he regretted it, he would have the act, but not the
credit of mortification;

(b) As regards external acts, a person is credited with the greater
readiness or intensity or duration which, through it, his will gives to
what is good. Example: If Titus prays in the manner above described,
his good will is intensified, and he has the credit of this increase in
the accidental goodness of his act;

(c) As regards acts indirectly willed, one is not credited with their
goodness, if this is merely permitted. Example: Sempronius, who is
sorry that thoughts of a better life will go through his mind as a
consequence of going to church, has not the credit of those good

(d) As regards consequences that were foreseen, or that naturally
result from an act, one is not credited with their goodness, unless it
was wished. Example: Balbus teaches religion to children because he is
paid to do so; Caius does so because it is a good act. The consequence
that these children afterwards live virtuously is not morally
creditable to Balbus, since he thought nothing about it; but it is a
circumstance that increases the goodness of Caius' act, since he
intended his teaching precisely as it is a good work;

(e) As regards consequences that are not natural results of an act, if
they were not foreseen or intended, they are not credited to the agent.
Example: Titus speaks a simple and ordinary word of good advice to
Sempronius, but the impression is so great that Sempronius undertakes
and accomplishes extraordinary things, which Titus would not have
deemed possible or advisable.

102. Evil is imputable as follows:

(a) As regards the internal act, a person is guilty of all the evil of
the object, end and circumstances, as far as it is known and willed by
him. Example: Balbus wishes he could steal all the possessions of
Caius, and thereby drive the latter to suicide. Balbus has committed
theft and murder in his heart;

(b) As regards the external act, one is guilty of all the circumstances
of greater willingness, etc., which it adds to the internal act.
Example: If Balbus actually steals from Caius and causes his death, his
malice is shown to be very strong and to extend to the evil
consequences of his external acts;

(c) As regards acts indirectly willed, one is guilty of the evil they
entail, if one could and should have prevented it. Example: Balbus is
guilty of the blasphemies he foresees will take place when he has taken
too much drink, for he could and should have kept sober.

(d) As regards the evil consequences of acts, foreseen or natural, one
is responsible for the evil, if one could and should have prevented it.
Examples: Titus knows that a beggar will use profane language if denied
an alms, but Titus cannot spare the money and is not responsible for
what happens. Sempronius blasphemes in the company of many, and is
therefore guilty of the sin of scandal, since he has no right to

(e) As regards the evil consequences of acts that could not have been
foreseen, they are not imputable. Example: Balbus steals fifty cents
from Caius, and the latter is so heartbroken that he commits suicide.
Balbus is not responsible for the suicide, since such a thing was far
from his thoughts when he stole.

103. It was just said (102, d) that when two results, one good and one
evil, follow an act, the evil is imputable if it could and should have
been prevented. It is not always easy, however, to determine at once
when the evil result should be prevented, and, as cases of double
effect are many, it will be useful to give rules that are more
particularized, and that enable one to decide when it is lawful to do
that from which will follow an act indirectly willed, or a consequence
that is evil.

104. It is lawful to perform an action from which an evil effect is
foreseen when the following conditions are present:

(a) the action willed itself must be good or at least indifferent; for
clearly, if the action is bad, it is also unlawful;

(b) a good effect must also follow from the act, and it must not be
caused by the evil effect; for the end does not justify the means.
Thus, it is not lawful to take what belongs to others in order to give
alms, for the evil effect (stealing) results from the act (taking)
immediately; whereas the good effect (almsgiving) results only
mediately through the theft;

(c) the agent must intend only the good effect, since it is unlawful to
wish evil. Thus, if one foresees that one's virtuous life will cause
the sin of envy in a neighbor, this evil result of one's virtue must
not be entertained by one as something pleasing;

(d) the agent must have a reason sufficiently weighty for permitting
the evil result that follows his act. Evil should not even be
permitted, unless there is adequate compensation in the good that is

105. To judge whether a reason for permitting an evil effect is
proportionately grave, the following rules should be kept in mind:

(a) the greater the evil that results, the greater must be the good
that is intended. Thus, it is not lawful to kill a robber in order to
save a small amount of money: but it is lawful to kill an aggressor, if
this is necessary in order to save one's life;

(b) the greater the dependence of the evil effect on one's act, the
greater must be the reason for performing the act. Example: Titus gives
permission to his class to play a game against another class,
foreseeing quarrels and disputes between the teams. Less reason is
required for granting the permission, if Titus knows that higher
authority will grant it, should he refuse it;

(c) the more nearly the evil effect follows upon the act, the greater
must be the reason for the act, Thus, less reason is required to direct
a person who looks like a heavy drinker to the city than to direct him
to a bottle of strong drink;

(d) the more certain it is that the evil effect will follow, the
greater is the reason required for placing its cause. For example, one
who speeds in an automobile on an unfrequented road, does not require
the same excusing cause as one who speeds on a thoroughfare where many
other cars are passing;

(e) the more obligation one has to prevent the evil effect, the graver
is the reason required for placing its cause. Thus, since
parish-priests, lawgivers, superiors and policemen are bound by their
office to prevent moral disorders, a far greater cause is required in
them, than in persons who have no such charge, for doing what will have
an evil consequence.


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, q. 21.)

106. When the morality of an act is attributable to one as one's own,
one becomes worthy of praise and reward, if the act is good, but
deserving of censure and punishment, if the act is evil.

107. Definitions.--Merit is the right to a reward arising from works
done for God. Demerit is the debt of punishment incurred on account of
works done against God.

108. Divisions.--According to the difference of the person who confers
the reward, there are two kinds of merit: (a) human merit, or the claim
which a person has to a reward from his neighbor, or from society, for
the benefits he has conferred upon his neighbor or society; (b) divine
merit, or the right a person has to receive a reward from God for the
fidelity wherewith he has exercised stewardship over his acts, of which
God is the Last End, or wherewith he has served society, of which God
is the Supreme Ruler. Only divine merit is here considered.

109. According to the difference of the object of the reward, there are
two kinds of merit: (a) natural merit, which makes one worthy of a
reward that does not exceed the native powers or exigencies of a
created being, such as success, prosperity, or other goods that do not
constitute the Last End of man (see 20). Thus, we read in scripture of
pagans or sinners who were blest with temporal happiness on account of
their natural virtues; (b) supernatural merit, which makes one worthy
of the beatitude surpassing mere created power that God has prepared
for those who serve Him (see 20). It is only this kind of merit that is
being considered here; for, since the Last End of man is a supernatural
reward (viz, the Beatific Vision of God), it follows that the acts by
which he tends to that End must be not only human and moral, but
supernaturally meritorious.

110. There are four kinds of supernatural merit: (a) condign merit in
the stricter sense, that is merit which arises from justice, and which
presupposes no favor on the part of the rewarder. In this sense Christ
merited, since even the grace which made His merits supernatural was
due to Him as the God-Man; (b) condign merit in the less strict sense,
that is merit which arises indeed from justice, but presupposes a favor
on the part of the rewarder. In this way the righteous merit before
God, since their works confer a right to their own reward, while the
grace which enables them to perform their works is a divine favor; (c)
congruous merit in the stricter sense, that is merit which arises not
from justice (since there is no equality between the work and the
reward), but from the fitness of things, because the person who merits
is a friend of God. In this way all who are in the state of grace can
merit spiritual goods for others; (d) congruous merit in the wide
sense, that is merit which arises from the liberality of God, who
answers a good work as if it were a prayer. In this way the good works
done by sinners can be said to merit conversion for them.

111. The second kind of merit mentioned above--i.e., condign merit in
the less strict sense--is that with which we are chiefly concerned
here, since it is the kind of merit that must be found in human acts in
order that they may lead man to a supernatural reward. A fuller
treatment of merit is found in Dogmatic Theology in the Question on

112. The conditions requisite for the kind of merit now in question
are: (a) that the work done be human, that is, free, morally good, and
supernatural (i.e., proceeding from sanctifying grace and divine
charity); (b) that the one who merits be in the wayfaring state (i.e.,
that he have not already passed to final reward or punishment), and
that he be in the state of grace; (c) that God has promised a reward
for the work done. From the statements made above, it follows that all
the human and morally good works of those who are in the state of grace
possess condign merit.

113. The objects of condign merit--i.e., the rewards promised by God
for the good works done for Him in this life--are: (a) an increase of
sanctifying grace; (b) the right to eternal life; (c) the attainment of
eternal life, if the one who merits dies in grace; (d) an increase of

114. The conditions for the merit of strict congruity are the same as
those given above (112), except the promise made by God, which is not
required. Examples of this kind of merit are the sanctity of the
Blessed Virgin, which made her deserve more than others to be the
Mother of God, and the conversion of St. Paul through the merits of St.

115. For the merit of wide congruity it is necessary that the work done
be morally good. Examples of this kind of merit are the sighs of the
ancient Patriarchs, as obtaining the coming of the Messiah. The just
man can merit with the merit of wide congruity the following: (a) his
own conversion after a future fall; (b) his final perseverance; (c)
temporal goods.


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 22-48.)

116. Having discussed the acts proper to man, we shall now speak of the
passions, which are common to both man and beast.

117. Definition.--The passions--also called the emotions, affections,
or sentiments--are acts of desire; but, unlike the acts of the will,
they are directed, not to good apprehended by the higher knowing power
of the intellect, but to good apprehended by the lower knowing power of
sense and imagination. They are defined as: acts or movements of the
sensitive appetite which arise from the representation of some good in
the sense faculties, and which produce some transformation in the body,
such as palpitation of the heart, increased circulation of the blood,
paleness, blushing, etc.

118. Division.--There are two classes of passions; (a) the
concupiscible, which have as their object sensible good considered as
delightful, or sensible evil considered as unpleasant, and which are
love and hatred, desire and flight, delight and sadness; (b) the
irascible, which have as their object sensible good or sensible evil
considered as difficult to attain or to avoid, and which are hope and
despair, boldness and fear, anger.

119. The concupiscible passions are defined as follows: (a) love, the
first of the passions and the cause of all the others, tends to
sensible good considered as desirable, abstracting from its presence or
absence; while hatred is the aversion from sensible evil considered
precisely as unsuitable and abstracting from its presence or absence;
(b) desire tends to sensible good that is absent, and flight turns away
from sensible evil apprehended as future; (c) delight is the affection
produced in the sensitive appetite by the presence and possession of
the object desired; (d) sadness is the passion which dejects the soul
on account of the presence of an evil.

120. The irascible passions are explained as follows: (a) hope reaches
out towards a future good whose attainment is difficult, but not
impossible; despair turns away from a good that seems impossible of
attainment; (b) bravery goes out to attack an evil that seems difficult
and imminent, but not unconquerable; fear falls back before a future
difficulty that seems irresistible; (e) anger is the desire of
vengeance for an injury received.

121. Moral Value of the Passions.--The Stoics held that all the
passions are diseases of the soul, and that one is perfect when one
arrives at the condition of being passionless or apathetic. Lucretius,
on the contrary, taught that all the impulses of passion are good. The
truth is that the passions are good or evil according to the way they
are considered. (a) Physically, the passions are good, since they are
the acts of natural powers, or the perfection and complement of
something good in itself. (b) Morally, they are indifferent, if they
are viewed in themselves, as the product of the sensitive appetite. For
this appetite is an irrational power of the soul, similar to that of
the beasts, and acts are not moral unless rational--i.e., an act is
good or evil only from its relation to reason. (c) Morally, the
passions are good or bad, if commanded by reason and will, for thus
they partake of the good or evil that is in the acts from which they
proceed, just as the acts of the external members of the body are moral
in so far as they execute the commands of the will. The passions are
voluntary if commanded by the will, or not forbidden by it. Examples:
Our Lord looked about Him with anger, being grieved at the blindness of
His enemies who watched Him in the synagogue (Mark, iii. 5); He wept
over the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke, xix. 41); He was sad at the
approach of His passion (Mark, xiv. 34).

122. The passions are morally good: (a) if they are directed by the
will to a morally good object; for example, shame is a praiseworthy
passion, because it is fear of what is dishonorable, and pity is also
good, because it is according to right reason, being sorrow for the
misfortune of another; (b) if they are chosen by the reason for a good
purpose; for example, it is good to excite the emotion of joy that one
may pray with greater fervor, or to arouse the feelings of pity, fear,
or hope, in order that one may be more earnestly moved to acts of
mercy, repentance, courage; (c) if the circumstances are moderated
according to right reason; for example, to grieve over the death of a
friend excessively, so that one is unfitted for duty and suffers in
health, is unreasonable; but to grieve even unto tears, as Christ did
at the tomb of Lazarus, is an act of piety. Similarly, the slight anger
of Heli was blamable and the great anger of Moses was laudable, because
the evils in both instances called for severity (I Kings, ii, iii;
Exod., iii).

123. The passions can either diminish or increase the goodness of an
act. (a) They diminish its goodness, if they are antecedent--i.e.,
prior to the judgment of the reason--for they thus obscure the mind and
make the act that follows less voluntary. For example, there is less
goodness in an alms given under an impulse of sentimentality than in
one given after serious consideration of the matter and from a motive
of charity. (b) They increase its goodness if they are
consequent--i.e., subsequent to the judgment and the result of the
vehemence of the will, or of deliberate encouragement by the will (see
47 sqq.)--for, just as the external act increases the goodness of the
internal act, so is it better that man should tend towards good, not
only with the will, but also with the emotions. Examples: The spiritual
gladness of the Psalmist is seen to have been more than ordinarily
great from the fact that it acted upon his feelings, and both heart and
flesh rejoiced (Ps, lxxxii. 3); to sing a hymn in order to encourage
oneself to greater fervor or devotion adds to the goodness of what is
done, through the greater promptness or ease it causes in the act that

124. The passions are morally evil: (a) when they are commanded by the
will and directed to an object, a purpose, or circumstances that are
evil, Thus, envy is an ignoble passion, since it is unreasonable, being
sorrow at another's success. Examples; Titus drinks to excess for the
delight of intoxication (bad object); Balbus purposely excites his
imagination, that he may hate more bitterly and act more cruelly (bad
end); Sempronius loves his children so immoderately that he grows
morose and jealous (bad circumstance). (b) The passions are also
morally evil when they should be forbidden and are not forbidden by the
will. Example; Caius is surprised by a sudden burst of anger, which,
though he judges to be unreasonable, he does nothing to check.

125. The passions can remove, diminish or increase the evil of an act.
(a) Thus, antecedent passions take away all evil, if (a thing that is
rare) they prevent entirely the use of reason; they diminish malice if
they obscure the judgment. Examples: Balbus, fearing that he is about
to drown, becomes panic-stricken, seizes Titus and almost drowns him.
Caius, threatened with a black eye if he refuses, calumniates: his
calumny would be worse if he acted coldbloodedly. (b) Consequent
passions increase the evil, for then they manifest a strong intention,
or are the result of direct purpose. Examples: Sempronius attacks the
conduct of an opponent, not with dispassionate argument and from a love
of truth, but with bitter personal feeling and from a desire of
revenge. Titia works herself into a rage that she may be the more ready
for an encounter with a person of whom she is unjustly jealous.

126. Though the passions are physically good and in their nature
morally indifferent, they may have physical reactions or moral
consequences that are harmful or evil. These dangers may be physical,
mental or moral.

(a) Physical Dangers of the Passions.--It is a well-known fact that
there is a close connection between the passions and the nerves, heart,
and bodily organism in general, and that strong or persistent emotion
can work great detriment to the health, producing disease,
unconsciousness, or even death.

(b) Mental Dangers of the Passions.--It is admitted by all that the
passions disturb the judgment, and can even take away the use of
reason. For they act upon the body or the senses, and these in turn
affect the mind in a way similar to what happens in sleep or
intoxication. Thus, love makes one blind to the defects of the object
of one's love; fear makes one magnify the evil of what is dreaded;
melancholy unbalances the mind, etc.

(c) Moral Dangers of the Passions.--It is likewise a matter of common
experience that the passions are a source of many temptations and sins.
Often they are antecedent (i.e., not premeditated or willed), as when
they arise from bodily states over which one has no control or from
imaginations strongly fixed in the mind, and at the same time tend to
that which is not according to right reason, rebelling against the law
of the mind. Thus, a person whose health is bad is easily dispirited,
and this feeling occasions temptations to despair; one whose memory is
haunted with the image of a lost parent becomes a prey to sadness,
which makes it difficult to perform duties with zest and diligence.

127. A passion may become morally bad on account of the physical or
mental evils connected with it. (a) Thus, a person has duties to his
own well-being, and he indirectly wills (see 35 sqq., 94 sqq.) to
neglect these duties, if he indulges harmful passions. Example:
Sempronia grieves immoderately over the death of her mother, with the
result that her health and mental vigor are impaired. (b) A person also
has duties with respect to the life, health, and happiness of his
neighbor, and he chooses to neglect these duties if he unjustly
provokes emotions in others, foreseeing injurious consequences (see 96
sqq.). Examples: Titus so vexes Balbus by petty annoyances that the
latter loses appetite and sleep, and becomes an invalid. Sempronia so
exasperates her father by long-continued unfilial conduct that the
latter becomes insane. Caius appeals to prejudices in order to have
injustice done to a rival.

128. As to passions that incite to evil or deter from good, we must
observe the following: (a) if the passion is consequent, one is placing
oneself or others in danger of sin, and one's conduct must be judged
according to the principles given in 258 sqq. (Examples: Titus likes to
brood over his troubles, although this causes temptations to neglect
duty; Sempronia makes remarks to a hot-headed acquaintance which are a
provocation to great uncharitableness); (b) if the passion is
antecedent, it constitutes a temptation which one is bound to resist
(see 252 sqq.). Example: Balbus has a natural dislike for Caius, and
often feels impelled to judge him rashly or treat him unjustly.

129. Antecedent or involuntary passions, as well as other involuntary
acts of imagination, thought and will, tending to evil, are sometimes
called "first motions of the soul," as distinguished from consequent or
voluntary passions and acts, which are known as "second motions of the
soul." The first motions are of two kinds: (a) those that precede all
deliberation and consent, actual or virtual (_motus primo-primi_), and
these are free from all sin; (b) those that precede full deliberation
and consent, but follow on partial deliberation (_motus
secundo-primi_). These latter are venial sins.

Most theologians since the Council of Trent maintain that the
inordinate movements of passion which precede the advertence of reason,
such as lust, envy, sloth, etc., are not sins. The Council of Trent
defined that the _fomes peccati_ has never been understood by the
Church to be truly a sin in the baptized, but has been called sin by
St. Paul in the sense that it is from sin and inclines to sin (Council
of Trent, fifth session). On the basis of this text some authors argue
that it is of faith that the inordinate motions called _primo-primi_
are not sins for the baptized. The condemnation of both the fiftieth
proposition of Baius: _The evil desires to which reason does not
consent, and which man endures unwillingly (_invitus_), are prohibited
by precept_; and his fifty-first: _Lust, or the law of the members, and
evil desires of it, which men suffer unwillingly, are true disobedience
of the law_; is interpreted as establishing as certain the
non-sinfulness of such movements in infidels. (See Merklebach, O.P.,
_Summa Theol_. Mor., Vol. I, n. 448).

St. Thomas taught otherwise that such inordinate movements of passion
are venial sins (_Summa. Theol_. I-II, q. 74, a. 3, ad 2um; _de Malo_
q. 7, a. 6. ad 4m; _de Veritate_, q. 25, a. 5). Although they precede
the deliberation of reason, they attain to the order of moral acts,
however imperfectly, insofar as sensuality in man by its nature is made
to be subject to reason. Reason can and ought to control these motions,
but fails to do so owing to the great number of them possible to occur.
Hence they are not involuntary, but indirectly voluntary as sins of
omission (_II Dist_. 24, q. 3, a. 2; _de Veritate_, q. 25, a. 5;
_Quodlib_. IV, q. 11, a. 1). Since these movements are indirectly
voluntary, St. Thomas' teaching does not conflict with the Council of
Trent which speaks of the _fomes_ as habitual dispositions and not of
its acts which St. Thomas considers. Clearly, too, his teaching does
not fall under the condemnation of the propositions of Baius; with
Baius the motions are involuntary, but for St. Thomas indirectly

St. Thomas distinguishes the motions of sensuality differently from
modern manualists. For him the motions-_primo-primi_ arise from
corporal dispositions which are not under the control of reason and
hence can not be sins. Motions-_secundo-primi_ arise from some
apprehension of the internal senses proper to the passions and can, at
least if taken singly, and ought to be ruled by reason. Thus, they are
moral acts (_de Malo_, q. VII, a. 6, ad 8um; _II Dist_. 24, q. 3, a. 2).

130. Bodily suffering or sickness is sometimes called a passion of the
body, but, unlike the passions of the soul, it is a physical evil.
Morally considered, it is indifferent in itself, but it has contacts
with morality in various ways. (a) Thus, it may receive morality from
the will. Examples: Sufferings endured with resignation are acts of
virtue; sickness or pain inflicted upon others is imputable to the
unjust cause. (b) It may affect the morality of the act of the will.
Examples: Severe toothache or other exquisite pain is an extenuating
circumstance in sins of grumbling, for the suffering draws so much
attention to itself that deliberation on other things is much
diminished; weakness of stomach may be a moral advantage in freeing one
from temptations to over-eating.

131. Though the passions are good in themselves, they are often morally
dangerous. The regulation of the passions through the virtues of
fortitude and temperance will be treated later on, but we shall
indicate here some natural means by which, God helping, their first
motions may be controlled. (a) Thus, if a passion is not strong, it may
be repressed directly by command of the will. Example: The impulse to
anger may sometimes be checked by the command of silence. (b) If a
passion is strong, it may be combated through other activities which
are its opposites or which, through the amount of energy they call for,
will diminish proportionately the force of the passion. Examples: In
time of fear one can fall back on thoughts of confidence; in time of
mourning one can seek joy or alleviation in the society of friends or
in the repose of sleep. Study or other strenuous occupation is an
excellent means to overcome impetuous passion.

(c) If a passion is persistent, it may be diverted to some lawful
object vividly represented and held in the imagination and thoughts.
Examples. Those who are inclined to love immoderately the world or the
things that are in the world should direct their love to divine
goodness. Those who are inclined to be too fearful of men should think
how much more God is to be feared.

Question II


132. Having considered human acts and the passions, we now pass to a
consideration of the principles from which acts proceed proximately.
These principles are, first, the faculties, powers or forces of the
soul (such as the intellect, will, sense, appetite, and vegetative
powers); and, secondly, the habits which permanently modify the
faculties. For some faculties may be turned in various directions,
either favorably or unfavorably, as regards their ends, and it is the
stable bent given to a faculty that is called a habit. Thus, the
intellect may be directed towards its end, which is truth, by the habit
of knowledge; or away from that end by the habit of ignorance.
Likewise, the will may be directed towards or away from its end, which
is good, by virtue or vice. The faculties are treated in Psychology,
but the habits, since they turn the faculties towards good or evil,
must be considered in Moral Theology, as well as in philosophy.


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 49-54.)

133. Definition.--A habit is a perfect and stable quality by which a
being is well- or ill-affected in itself, or with regard to its
motions. It differs from mere disposition or tendency, which is an
imperfect and transitory quality. Thus, a sallow complexion is a habit;
a blush, a disposition.

134. Division.--Habits are variously divided, as follows:

(a) From the viewpoint of their subject, they are either entitative or
operative, according as they affect directly the nature or the powers
of a being. Thus, in the soul there are the entitative habit of
sanctifying grace and operative habits like science and virtue; while
in the body are entitative habits of health, beauty, etc.

(b) From the viewpoint of their object, habits are good (i.e., virtues)
or evil (i.e., vices);

(c) From the viewpoint of their cause, habits are infused or acquired,
according as they are supernaturally produced by God, or are naturally
obtained by man through repeated acts, or result from nature without
repeated acts. Faith in a baptized infant is an infused habit;
knowledge obtained through study is an acquired habit; the perception
that the first principles of truth are to be granted is natural.

135. Operative acquired habits are defined as qualities not easily
changed, by which a faculty that is able to act in various ways is
disposed to act in one way with ease, readiness and pleasure. Thus, by
training a man acquires a correct carriage, and is able to walk
straight without difficulty.

136. Operative infused habits are enduring qualities that give to a
faculty the power to perform acts that are supernatural. Thus, the
infused virtues of faith, hope and charity give to the intellect and
the will the ability to elicit acts with reference to supernatural
truth and good. Facility and promptitude with respect to these acts
come through the use of the infused power.

137. Strengthening and Weakening of Habits.--Habits are increased: (a)
extensively when they are applied to more objects--thus the habit of
science grows as it is applied to more truths; (b) intensively, when
they are rooted more firmly in their subject and become easier to
exercise. This last comes about when intense acts of a habit are
frequently repeated. Thus, a habit of virtue or vice becomes a second
nature, and it is exercised with ever greater delight and resisted with
ever-increasing difficulty.

138. The infused habits cannot be diminished, but they can be destroyed
(see 745). As to the acquired habits, they are weakened and destroyed
chiefly in two ways: (a) by acts opposed to them, especially if these
acts are earnest and frequent--thus, evil custom is overcome by good
custom, and vice-versa; (b) by long discontinuance or disuse. Thus, a
person who has learned a foreign language will forget it, if he fails
to speak, read or hear it. The knowledge of first principles,
speculative or moral, is not lost, however, through forgetfulness, as
experience shows.

139. Accidentally, a habit may be corrupted through injury of an organ
that is necessary for the exercise of the habit. Thus, right moral
judgment may be lost if certain areas of the brain are affected.

140. Habits and Morality.--The importance of habits in man's moral life
is very great. (a) Habits are an index to a man's past career, for the
ease and facility he now possesses through them is the result of many
struggles and efforts and difficulties overcome, or of defeats and
surrenders and neglected opportunities. (b) Habits constitute a man's
moral character. Morally, a person is the sum of his moral habits and
dispositions grouped around the central interest or idea of his life.
He who would know himself, therefore, cannot do better than to examine
what are his habits, and which is the predominant one among them. (e)
Habits are a prophecy of the future. Habits are not irresistible and do
not destroy freedom, but they produce such ease and readiness for
acting in one particular way that the probabilities are, when habits
are strong, that a person will continue to follow them in the future as
he has done in the past, thus progressing or deteriorating, as the case
may be.

141. Duties as regards Habits.--(a) Bad habits should be avoided and
those that have been formed should be destroyed (see 138). The means to
accomplish these victories are divine help obtained through prayer and
the other instrumentalities of grace, watchfulness through
self-examination, and the cultivation of a spirit of self-denial, as
well as attack made on the habit that is forming or already formed (see
255 sqq.)

(b) Good habits should be acquired, and those already possessed should
be exercised and put to the best advantage. The means to this end, in
addition to those that are supernatural, are especially a realization
of the importance of good habits, a great desire to have them, and
constant and regular effort to practise them (see 137).


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 55-70.)

142. Definition.--A virtue is a good habit of the free powers of the
soul, that is a principle of good conduct, and never of conduct that is
evil. Hence, the following are not virtues: (a) an occasional
inclination to good, for this is not a fixed habit; (b) good habits of
the body or of the vegetative powers, etc. (such as beauty and health),
for these are not free; (c) knowledge of the right or affection for it
without any reference to practice, for virtue is a principle of right
living; (d) habits that can be applied indifferently to good or bad
conduct, such as human opinion.

143. Division.--The virtues are divided: (a) according to their
different causes, into infused and acquired virtues (cfr. 134 sqq.);(b)
according to their different objects, into intellectual, moral and
theological virtues.

144. The intellectual virtues are those habits that perfect the
intellect with reference to its good--i.e., truth, speculative or

145. The speculative virtues are three: understanding, knowledge and

(a) Understanding or intelligence is the habit of perceiving truths
that are not in need of proof, as being self-evident. Axiomatic truths
or first principles are the object of this virtue.

(b) Knowledge or science is the habit of perceiving truths that are
learned from other truths by argumentation, and that are ultimate in
some category of being. The object of this virtue embraces the various
sciences (like astronomy) which are conclusions from principles.

(c) Wisdom is the habit of learning through reasoning the truth that is
absolutely ultimate; it is the knowledge of things in their supreme
cause, God. Examples are theology and philosophy in their highest sense.

146. The practical intellectual virtues are two: prudence and art.

(a) Prudence is an intellectual virtue which indicates in individual
cases what is to be done or what is to be omitted, in order that one
may act according to the requirements of good morals.

(b) Art is an intellectual virtue which indicates in individual cases
how one must act in order to produce things that are useful or
beautiful (e.g., music, painting, building, etc.).

147. The intellectual virtues, except prudence, are not perfect
virtues, since, While they make an act good, they do not necessarily
make the agent good. A man may have great knowledge about morality, or
be able to produce excellent works of art, and at the same time be not
virtuous, or have no love for his work.

148. Prudence is an intellectual virtue, since it resides in the
intellect; but it is also classed among the moral virtues, since its
object is the direction of human acts to their right end.

149. The moral virtues are those habits that perfect the will and the
sensitive appetite with reference to their immediate and respective
objects; that is, they are habits concerned with acts as means to the
Last End. They make the act good, and make good also him who performs
it; and they are thus superior as virtues to the intellectual habits.

150. There are four principal moral virtues: (a) in the intellect there
is prudence, which guides all the actions and passions by directing the
other moral virtues to what is good according to reason; (b) in the
will there is justice, which inclines a person to make his actions
accord with what he owes to others; (c) in the irascible appetite is
fortitude, which subjects to reason the passions that might withdraw
from good, such as fear of dangers and labors; (d) in the concupiscible
appetite is temperance, which represses the motions of passions that
would impel one to some sensible good opposed to reason.

These four virtues are also called cardinal virtues, because all the
other moral virtues hinge on them.

151. The theological virtues are those that perfect the intellect and
the will with reference to God, their ultimate, supernatural object.
They are three: (a) faith, which is a virtue infused into the
intellect, giving man supernatural truths that are perceived by a
divine light; (b) hope, which is a virtue infused into the will,
enabling man to tend towards the supernatural destiny disclosed by
faith as towards an end possible of attainment; (c) charity, which is a
virtue infused into the will, uniting man's affections to the object of
his hope and transforming him into its likeness.

152. Causes of Virtues.--The causes of virtue are three: (a) nature,
which is the cause of the inchoative intellectual and moral virtues,
that is, of the theoretical and practical principles that are naturally
known, and of the inclinations to virtue that arise from an
individual's bodily constitution; (b) practice, which is the cause of
perfected intellectual and moral virtues, that is, of the good habits
that are formed by repeated acts (e.g., knowledge obtained through
study, temperance fixed in the character through continued effort); (c)
infusion from on high, which is the cause of the virtues that surpass
nature (i.e., of the theological virtues and of the moral virtues that
are concerned with our acts as ordered to the supernatural).

153. Properties of the Virtues.--From the definition of virtue given
above certain properties result.

(a) Since a virtue makes conduct agree with a certain fixed standard,
it does not allow of excess or defect. Hence, virtue follows the golden

(b) Since the other moral virtues would go to extremes without the
guidance of prudence, and since prudence would not judge aright without
the right dispositions of the other virtues, it follows that the four
moral virtues, at least in their perfect state, must always be
together. And because charity is the fulfillment of the whole law, he
who has charity has also all the other infused virtues.

(c) Since the virtues are directed towards objects of varying degrees
of excellence, and since they are habits, and are capable of increase
and decrease (137 sqq.), it follows that both virtues of different
species, and those of the same species, are or may be unequal.

(d) Since some of the virtues imply conditions that will not exist in
the life to come, it follows that these virtues will be somewhat
changed in the blessed. Thus, temperance, which subdues the rebellion
of the passions, will not be exercised in heaven, where the passions do
not rebel.

154. The golden mean is found differently in different virtues.

(a) In the case of justice, the mean is determined by an external
object that is invariable, since justice gives what is due to others,
neither more nor less; in the case of fortitude and temperance the mean
is determined by prudent judgment and is not invariable, since these
two virtues are concerned with the regulation of the internal passions
according to conditions of individuals and circumstances. Thus, a debt
of ten dollars remains the same whether the debtor is rich or poor,
whether the creditor needs it or not. But a glass of liquor, which
would be just enough for one who was well, might be far too much for
him when he was sick; and a danger which a man might be expected to
encounter, might be too much for a woman or a boy.

(b) The mean of the intellectual and speculative virtues is the
agreement with objective truth, as lying between the extremes of false
affirmation and false negation. The mean of the practical virtue of
prudence, as regulating the moral virtues, is right reason, considered
as directive of the desires and conduct so as to avoid excess and

(c) The theological virtues have no mean, as far as their object is
concerned, since God, being infinite in truth, power and goodness,
cannot be believed in, hoped in, or loved too much. By reason of their
subject, however, these virtues have a mean, since it is possible for
one to exceed, for example, in hope by presumptuously expecting what
is not due to one's condition.

155. Without charity one may possess certain other virtues. (a) Thus,
one may have the natural or acquired moral virtues, as is the case with
many pagans, but such virtues are imperfect, since they do not direct
their subject to the Supernatural End of man; (b) one may have the
supernatural or infused virtues of faith and hope, as is the case with
Christians who are not in the state of grace. Even such faith and hope
are imperfect virtues, and are not meritorious.

156. Considered precisely as virtues (cfr. Article on Hope), the three
groups rank as follows: (a) the theological virtues are the most
excellent, since they deal directly with man's supernatural end; (b) By
reason of their object, universal truth, the intellectual virtues are
superior to the moral virtues, which are concerned with particular
goods; (c) the moral virtues, nevertheless, are more perfect as
virtues, for, so considered in the order of action, in perfecting the
appetites, they are more properly principles of action.

157. The highest of the virtues within each group are the following:

(a) Charity is greater than faith and hope, since it implies union with
its objects, while the other two imply a certain distance from their

(b) Justice is superior to fortitude and temperance, since it deals
with actions by which man is rightly ordered, both as to himself and as
to others, while the others deal with the passions and the right
disposition of man as to himself. The order of the moral virtues is:
prudence, which is the guide of the others; justice, which deals with
man's actions and orders him rightly, both as to himself and as to
others; fortitude, which governs the passions, even when life and death
are the issues; temperance, which governs the passions in affairs of
less importance;

(c) The chief of the intellectual virtues is wisdom, which considers
the supreme cause of things, and therefore judges the other virtues of
the intellect.

158. In the blessed the virtues will remain, but changed in some
respects. (a) Thus, the rectitude of soul contained in the moral
virtues will endure, but there will be no rebellious passions to
overcome, no dangers to oppose, no debts of justice to be discharged,
as in this life; (b) the intellectual virtues acquired in this life
will remain, but the soul separated from the body will not employ sense
images as in its earthly existence; (c) faith and hope will give place
to vision and realization, but charity will never fall away.

159. The Complements of the Virtues.--The virtues are habits that
supply the soul with an internal guide (prudence), and with
inclinations to follow its direction (moral virtues). But there is also
a higher Guide who speaks to the soul, and it is necessary that the
inclinations of virtue be carried out in a suprahuman mode. Hence, the
virtues are completed by certain adjuncts. These are: (a) the Gifts of
the Holy Ghost, which are habits infused into the soul, making it
sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and docile under His
direction; (b) the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, which are acts that grow
out of the virtues and have a special spiritual sweetness attached to
them; (c) the Beatitudes, which are activities of special excellence
having a corresponding special reward attached to them, The acts are
produced by the infused virtues and the Gifts, especially by the Gifts.

160. There are seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are divided as

(a) There are the Intellectual Gifts, which make the soul more
responsive to the light which the Holy Spirit sheds upon truths held by
faith. These Gifts assist the intellect, first, in its apprehension of
the mysteries of faith, that it may be made to grasp more clearly what
it believes (Gift of Understanding); secondly, in its judgments, that
it may be illuminated so as to adhere to the principles of faith and
depart from their opposites, whether there be question of judgments
about divine things (Gift of Wisdom), or created things (Gift of
Knowledge), or human actions (Gift of Counsel);

(b) There are the Appetitive Gifts, which make the soul more ready to
follow divine motions and inspirations. These Gifts aid the irascible
affections by giving them a confidence of victory over every peril and
by assuring safe arrival at the term of life (Gift of Fortitude); they
aid the will in its social relations by leading to a filial love and
devotion toward God (Gift of Piety); they assist the concupiscible
affections by filling them with a reverence of God's majesty and a
horror of offending Him (Gift of Fear of the Lord).

161. The Gifts of the Holy Ghost are superior to the moral and
intellectual virtues, for these virtues perfect the powers of the soul
that they may be always ready to follow the guidance of reason, while
the Gifts make the powers of the soul docile to the guidance of the
Holy Ghost.

162. The Gifts of the Holy Ghost are inferior to the theological
virtues, for these virtues unite the soul to the Holy Ghost, while the
Gifts only make the soul ready to receive His illuminations and

163. There are twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost enumerated by St. Paul
(Gal. v, 22-23). (a) Some of these acts grow out of the indwelling
Spirit, and are delightful to the spiritual taste because they perfect
the agent in himself. Charity, joy, and peace indicate that the soul is
rightly disposed as to what is good; patience and longsuffering, that
it is not disturbed by evils. (b) Others of these Fruits give spiritual
delight because they perfect the agent in his relations to his fellows.
Good will and kindness show that one is well-disposed towards others;
meekness and fidelity, that injury does not overcome him, or make him
deceitful. (c) Still other Fruits are delightful because they order a
man's life rightly as to external actions or internal passions, such as
modesty, continency, chastity.

164. There are eight Beatitudes enumerated by our Lord. (a) Some of
these are acts that surpass the virtues as regards the use of external
goods and the government of the passions. Thus, it is lawful to have
possessions, but the poor in spirit despise them; it is lawful to
exercise the irascible passions according to reason, but the meek under
divine guidance keep themselves in tranquillity; it is lawful to
rejoice according to moderation, but the mourners, when this is better,
refrain from all rejoicing. (b) Other Beatitudes are acts that surpass
the virtues of justice or liberality to one's neighbor. Thus, those who
hunger and thirst after justice not only discharge their obligations,
but they do so with the greatest willingness; the merciful bestow their
bounty, not only on their friends and relatives, but on those who are
most in need. (c) Still other Beatitudes are concerned with the acts
that most fit one for the contemplation of divine things, namely, that
in oneself one be pure or heart or free from the defilements of
passion, and that one be peaceful with reference to others. (d) The
final Beatitude is the crown of the others; for one is perfectly
attached to poverty of spirit, meekness, etc., when he is prepared for
their sake to suffer persecution.

165. The rewards promised to the Beatitudes are conferred, not only in
the life to come, but also in the present life. But they are not
necessarily temporal or corporal rewards (such as riches, pleasure,
ete.), but spiritual beatitude, which is a foretaste and figure of the
eternal joy to come.

166. All the Beatitudes may be called Fruits of the Holy Ghost, since
they are the outgrowth of the indwelling Spirit and are filled with
spiritual sweetness. But the Beatitudes are really more excellent than
the Fruits, since they are works of more than ordinary excellence;
whereas every work of virtue that gives delight may be called a Fruit
of the Holy Spirit.

Art. 3: BAD HABITS OR VICES (_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 71-89.)

167. Definition.--A vice is a habit inclining to moral evil. A sin is
an act resulting from a vice, or tending to the formation of a vice; or
it is any thought, word, deed or omission against the law of God.

168. Divisions.--There are various divisions of sins. Thus:

(a) according to the kind of delight that is taken in evil, sins are
either spiritual (e.g., vainglory) or carnal (e.g., intemperance);

(b) according to the person who is more directly offended by evil, sins
are either against God (e.g., heresy, despair, blasphemy), or against
one's neighbor (e.g., theft, calumny), or against oneself (e.g.,
intemperance, suicide);

(c) according to the greater or less gravity of the evil, sins are
either mortal (e.g., blasphemy) or venial (e.g., idle thoughts);

(d) according as the evil is done by acting or not acting, sins are
either of commission (e.g., theft) or of omission (e.g., failure to pay

(e) according to the progress of a sin, there are three stages: first,
it is a sin of the heart when it exists only in the mind, as when one
entertains a wish for revenge; secondly, it is a sin of the mouth, when
it is manifested in words, as when one uses contumelious language;
thirdly, it is a sin of work when it is carried out in act, as when one
strikes another in the face;

(f) according to the manner in which they deviate from the golden mean,
sins are either of excess (e.g., extravagance) or of defect (e.g.,

(g) according to the manner in which its guilt is contracted, sin is
either original (i.e., the loss of grace inherited from Adam) or actual
(i.e., the stain derived from one's own wrongdoing; sec 272 sqq.).

169. Mortal Sin.--A sin is mortal or deadly, when by it a person turns
away from God, his Last End, and prefers to Him some created good,
thereby incurring the debt of eternal punishment.

170. The first condition necessary in order that a sin may be judged
mortal is that the matter of the sin be grave, either in itself or in
the opinion of him who commits it; it must include turning away from
God and the substitution of some created good as the Last End.

171. The matter of a sin is known to be grave: (a) when the law of God
or of the Church declares that it is seriously displeasing to God, or
that it will separate one from His favor or rewards; (b) when right
reason shows that it does great injury to the rights of God, of
society, of one's neighbor, or of oneself.

172. The matter of a sin is grave in two ways. (a) It is grave from the
character of the act and without exception, when the good which is
injured is infinite, or is a finite good of greatest importance and
indivisible, Thus, heresy, despair, and simony against divine law are
always serious, because they offend against an infinite good; while
murder, though it injures only a finite good, is nevertheless always
grave matter because earthly life is of highest importance among finite
goods, and if taken away is taken entirely. (b) The matter of a sin is
grave from the character of the act but with exceptions, when the good
that is injured is of grave importance, but finite and divisible. Thus,
the worship we give to God is finite and admits of more and less; and
hence a sin against worship, though serious from the nature of the
offence, may be slight on account of the smallness of the irreverence.
Similarly, though theft injures a grave right, it is not grave matter
when the amount stolen is small.

173. The second condition required that a sin be mortal is that there
be full advertence to the grave malice of the act, for one cannot be
said to separate oneself from God unless one has made the same amount
of deliberation that is required for any temporal affair of great

174. Advertence is the act by which the mind gives attention to
something. It is of two kinds: (a) full advertence, when there is
nothing to impede perfect attention, as when a person is wide awake, in
full possession of his faculties, and not distracted; (b) partial
advertence, when there is something that, prevents entire attention, as
when a person is only partly awake; or not entirely conscious, or
distracted with many things.

175. Hence in the following cases, even though there be serious matter,
a sin is not mortal, on account of lack of full advertence. (a) When
without one's will there is no full advertence to the act itself, as
happens with those who are half-asleep, or who are under the influence
of drugs, or who are mentally confined by anxiety or physical pain,
etc. (see on Human Acts, 24 sqq.). (b) A sin is not mortal when there
is no full advertence to the sinfulness or to the gravity of the act.
Those who through no fault of their own are unaware that an act is
sinful, or that it is a mortal sin (e.g., children, the half-witted, or
the uninstructed), have no full advertence to the malice of the act;
likewise, those who, without being responsible for their inadvertence,
do not think at the moment of the sinfulness or seriousness of what
they do (e.g., those who think out plans for revenge before they have
taken second thought on its immorality).

176. Signs that indicate that there was no full advertence are: (a) if
afterwards one can scarcely recall what happened; (b) if shortly
afterwards one cannot be sure what was one's state of mind at the time.

177. Though full advertence is required for a mortal sin, it is not
required that this advertence be the most perfect. (a) It is not
necessary that the advertence be preceded by long deliberation, for
advertence can be full even when the consideration is only momentary,
(b) It is not necessary that advertence be continued during the
commission of a sin, for what follows is foreseen if adverted to at the
beginning. (c) It is not necessary that advertence to the malice of the
sin be clear or exact. One who perceives that there is some special
malice in robbing a church, even though he does not understand just
what the malice is, has sufficient advertence to become guilty of
sacrilege. Likewise, one who has doubts as to whether a certain sin is
mortal, or who suspects that it is mortal, has sufficient advertence
for grave guilt if he commits that sin. (d) It is not necessary that
advertence to the malice of the sin be reflex (i.e., that one advert to
the fact that one is conscious of the gravity of the sin); for to will
the malice, it suffices that one be conscious of the malice. (e) It is
not necessary that advertence to the malice of the sin be explicit
(i.e., that one have in mind the precise nature of sin as an offense
against God, which produces a stain on the soul and incurs the debt of
punishment); for to will evil and its gravity, it suffices that one
perceive the evil and its gravity, even though one does not analyze the
meaning or seek out the ultimate reasons.

178. The third condition required that a sin be mortal is that full
consent of the will be given it, for no one separates him self from God
except through his own free choice. (a) Consent is not full, when there
has not been full advertence, or when an act has been done under
violent compulsion; (b) consent is full when there has been full
advertence and no forceful compulsion (see above on Violence, 52).

179. Indications that consent was not full are: (a) if before the sin
the person was of tender conscience and had habitually a horror of
grave sin; (b) if at the time of the sin the person recoiled from the
sinful suggestion--e.g., if he had a hatred for it as soon as it was
fully perceived, or if he was saddened at the temptation, or if he kept
from an external act that could have been easily performed; (c) if
after the sin the person was conscientious, and yet had doubts as to
whether consent was given.

180. Venial Sin.--A sin is venial, or more easily pardonable, when by
it one turns inordinately towards some created good, not so, however,
as to forsake God as one's Last End or to prefer self-will to the
divine friendship.

181. The first condition required that a sin be called venial is that
its matter be light, either in reality, or in the invincible belief of
him who commits it. The criteria by which we may know what matter is
light are authority and right reason (see above, 171).

182. The matter of a sin is light in two ways. (a) From the character
of the act, the matter is light when the good which is injured is
finite and of minor importance. Thus, truth about trivial things is of
less importance among finite goods, and consequently a small lie about
some unimportant matter, which helps and does not harm the neighbor, is
light matter. (b) From the quantity of the matter, the matter is light
when the good injured is of major importance but divisible. An example
here is a theft that works only small harm (see above, 172).

183. The second condition for a venial sin is that there be some
advertence to the malice of the act. (a) The advertence is not full
when the matter is grave, and the act done without compulsion, for else
the sin would not be venial but mortal. (b) The advertence may be full
or partial when the matter is light.

184. The third condition for a venial sin is that there be some consent
of the will to the malice of the act. (a) The consent is not full when
the matter is grave, for else the sin would be mortal. (b) The consent
may be either full or partial when the matter is light.

185. Imperfections.--The description of venial sin just given indicates
that it is a voluntary transgression of the law of God in matters of
lighter importance, and is thus distinguished from the various classes
of moral imperfections. These latter imperfections are:

(a) natural imperfections, which are the falling short on the part of
good acts of the higher degree of goodness they might have possessed.
Since man is finite by nature, it is inevitable that he be limited in
the good he does; and hence this kind of imperfection is not a
transgression or a sin;

(b) personal imperfections which are voluntary but not transgressions,
are acts or omissions whose motive is reasonable, but which are
contrary to that which is of counsel. Example: to omit hearing a Mass
that is not obligatory, when one is able to assist at it, but has a
good reason for staying away;

(c) personal imperfections which are transgressions but not voluntary,
are acts or omissions done without deliberation, but which are opposed
to some law of less importance. Example: To pray with involuntary

186. Change in the Gravity of Moral Defects.-An imperfection becomes a
sin: (a) if the motive for omitting what is of counsel only is sinful
(e.g., to neglect a Mass that is not of obligation out of contempt);
(b) if a slight indeliberate transgression has a cause that was
voluntary (e.g., involuntary distractions caused by previous neglect).

187. Venial sins become mortal when that which in itself is a slight
offense, becomes in the individual agent a grave offense by reason of
some change in the object or of some grave malice in the purpose,
circumstances, or the foreseen results (see above 97 sqq.).

188. A change in the object makes venial sin mortal: (a) when that
which is light matter objectively is apprehended subjectively as grave
matter (e.g., a person tells a small lie or commits a trifling theft,
thinking these to be mortal sins); (b) when that which is light matter
by itself becomes knowingly grave matter through the additions that are
made to it (e.g., a thief steals small amounts frequently with the
intention of having a great amount of ill-gotten money after a time).

189. It should be noted that, while the matter of venial sins may
coalesce so as to form grave matter and constitute a mortal sin, as
just explained, venial sins themselves do not, from mere
multiplication, ever become mortal, since the difference between mortal
and venial sin is not one of quantity, but of kind. Hence, when acts
are slightly sinful but do not coalesce, they multiply venial sins, but
do not form mortal sin. Example: Coming a few minutes late for Mass
every Sunday.

190. The multiplication of venial sins, especially when they are held
as of no importance, disposes for the commission of mortal sin: (a)
directly, by forming a habit that calls for ever greater indulgence
(e.g., petty thefts lead to dishonesty on a large scale); (b)
indirectly, by familiarizing one with wrongdoing and chilling the love
for virtue.

191. The wrong purpose of the agent makes an act that is only venially
sinful (as far as the object is concerned) to become mortally sinful,
when the purpose contains a grave malice in itself, for the act is then
intended only as a means to what is seriously wrong (see above 80).
Example: To tell a small lie in order to break up friendships and sow

192. The circumstances of an act that is only venially sinful in itself
also make the act mortally sinful, when there is grave malice in such
circumstances. Cases of this kind are the following:

(a) The circumstance of the person committing the sin sometimes changes
the malice from light to grave. Example: Unbecoming levity in one in
authority may cause serious disrespect for his office and thus be
gravely sinful;

(b) The circumstance of the manner in which an act is performed may
change it from a venial to a mortal sin, as when the sin is committed
out of contempt, or is so coveted that it would be preferred to a grave
obligation. Examples: One who violates a law of lesser moment, not
because he regards it as bad, but because he wishes to show his
disregard of all law and authority; or one who is so attached to games
of chance that he is prepared to steal a large sum rather than give
them up.

193. The serious harm that is foreseen as a result of venial sin also
changes the malice from slight to serious. Examples: One who jokingly
annoys another, knowing that this will provoke grave dissensions; or
one who tells small lies to persons who are known for their
uncharitable distortions and exaggerations; or one who agrees to take
too much strong drink knowing from experience that this invariably
leads to serious excess.

194. Mortal sins become venial when that which in itself is a grave
offense, becomes light by reason of some change in he object or lack of
full consent in the subject.

195. A change in the object makes a mortal sin venial: (a) when that
which is grave matter objectively, is apprehended through inculpable,
or only venially culpable ignorance as light matter (e.g., when an
uninstructed child thinks that a serious calumny is only a venial sin);
(b) when a sin whose character is serious but whose matter is divisible
is small as to matter (e.g,, to be absent from a small part of the Mass
on Sunday); (e) when a law whose obligation is grave will cause more
than slight inconvenience in a particular case, and thus becomes of
light obligation for that case (e.g., to miss Mass on Sunday because of
a difficulty that was not unsurmountable, but yet considerable).

196. Lack of sufficient advertence or of full consent makes a mortal
sin venial; (a) when without serious fault one does not advert to a
gravely sinful act (e.g., a desire of revenge); (b) when without
serious fault one does not know or does not think about the grave
malice of what one is doing (e.g., to repeat a story, not knowing or
not remembering at the time that it is a serious calumny); (c) when on
account of considerable excitement, fear or other disturbance, one
gives only partial consent to an act that is mortally sinful (e.g.,
when one, on being suddenly insulted, replies with a serious

197. The Distinction of Sins.--There are three kinds of distinction of
sins: (a) sins that differ according to theological species, that is,
according as they turn or do not turn the sinner away from God as his
Last End. There are only two theological species of sin, viz., mortal
and venial; (b) sins that differ according to moral species, that is,
according to their essences, or the various kinds of finite good to
which they turn the sinner. There are many moral species of sins, for
example, infidelity, uncharitableness, etc.; (c) sins that differ
according to number, but agree according to moral species (e.g., two
distinct acts of uncharitable hatred).

198. The criteria for the specific distinction of sins are two:

(a) that which makes sins to differ specifically is the difference of
the objects to which they tend, inasmuch as these created goods are out
of harmony in specifically different ways with the standards of
morality (e.g., pride and gluttony); (b) that by which we recognize the
specific difference of sins is the opposition they have to virtues or
laws that are specifically different. Thus, pride is opposed to
humility, gluttony to temperance--two different virtues.

199. The following rules assist us in recognizing specific distinctions
of sins. (a) Those sins are specifically different which are opposed to
virtues that are specifically distinct. Thus, infidelity and despair
are different in species, because opposed to faith and hope, which are
two distinct species of virtue. (b) Those sins are specifically
different that are opposed to specifically different objects of one and
the same virtue--that is, to functions of the virtue, or to laws
concerning it that have intrinsically different motives. Thus, sins of
murder, theft, and false testimony, though opposed to the same virtue
of justice, are specifically distinct, since they contravene
obligations of that virtue whose purposes are morally distinct. (c)
Those sins are specifically different that are opposed in specifically
different ways to the same object of the same virtue, one opposing that
object by way of excess and the other by way of defect. Thus,
miserliness and extravagance are specifically distinct sins, because
one falls short of, while the other goes beyond, the golden mean that
is found in liberality.

200. Sins are not specifically distinct: (a) when they are opposed to
the same virtue in ways that are physically, but not morally, contrary.
Thus, sins of omission and sins of commission are physically opposites,
but they are not morally so, unless they offend against different moral
objects in the ways explained in the preceding paragraph. Hence, to
steal and to refuse to pay debts, to take and to keep what belongs to
another, are not specifically different sins; whereas to violate two
distinct precepts about the same virtue, one a command and the other a
prohibition, is to commit two species of sin, one by omission, and the
other by commission;

(b) when they are opposed to the same virtue with reference to commands
that differ in their lawgivers, but not in their motives. Thus, God,
the Church, and the State all forbid theft; but he who steals is not
therefore guilty of three sins, for each lawgiver forbids theft from
the same intrinsic motive, viz., because it is an injury.

201. One and the same act contains in itself many sins, when it has
many malices specifically different. Thus, he who kills his parents
violates two commandments relative to the virtue of justice; he who
steals from a church is guilty of theft and of sacrilege.

202. Sins that are multiplied numerically within the same species are
committed in three ways: (a) by purely internal acts, that is, acts
that are completed within the powers of the soul and do not tend to
execution in some external act (e.g., unbelief, envy, pride, delight in
the thought of sin, etc.); (b) by internal acts that are not completed
in the will, but tend to execution in some external act (e.g., the
purpose or desire to injure another, to lie, etc.); (c) by external
acts that are performed or neglected by the bodily faculties under
command of the will (e.g., theft, quarrels, lies, omissions of duty,

203. Acts may be numerically one or many in two ways.

(a) Physically, there is one act when the agent moves or puts into
action a power of the soul or body only once (e.g., to steal from a
church). Physically, there are many acts when the agent exercises
different operative faculties, or the same one different times (e.g.,
to put one's hand many times into a money box in order to steal the
entire contents).

(b) Morally, there is one act when a single physical act does not
contain more than one species of morality, or when several physical
acts are united as parts of one whole by reason of the intention of the
agent, or the nature of the acts themselves. For example, the wish to
steal is morally one act. The intention to steal, the decision to use
certain means to accomplish this intention, the various attempts made,
and finally the carrying out of the plan--all these form morally but
one act, since the acts that follow are only the development of the
original intention. Similarly, several curses hurled at another form
morally one act, if all are uttered under the influence of the same
passion of anger. Finally, acts of spying on another, of entering his
house without permission, and of taking his property unlawfully, are
morally one act, because the first acts are naturally the preparation
for what follows.

204. Morally, there are several acts when a single physical act
contains several species of malice (as when one steals from a church),
or when there are several physical acts not united by any bond of
common purpose or natural subordination (as when one steals on
different occasions because an opportunity suddenly presented itself,
or as when one misses Mass on different Sundays).

205. Objects of acts may also be numerically one or many in two ways.

(a) Physically, an object is one when it has its own proper
individuality different from that of others. Thus, each coin in a
pocket-book is physically one thing, each member of a family is
physically one person. Objects are physically many, when they include
more than one distinct thing or person. Thus, physically a pocket-book
contains many objects, as does also a family.

(b) Morally, objects that are physically many become one, if they are
not such as to require morally distinct acts in their regard, and if
they form according to prudent judgment parts of an integral or
collective whole. Otherwise, these objects are morally many. Example:
Missing Mass for a whole year constitutes, morally speaking, many
objects, since it implies many independent external omissions, or
morally distinct acts. A box of ordinary coins, though it contains many
individual pieces of money, is commonly regarded as one integral
object; and likewise religious, civil, domestic, and financial bodies,
though each is made up of many members, are each, morally speaking, but
one person. The possessions of different proprietors, however, are not
one moral object; neither do the individual, personal rights of the
members of one group constitute a single object.

206. It is clear that two sins specifically different in malice are also
numerically different (e.g., a sin of theft and a sin of calumny). The
rules that follow will pertain only to sins that are of the same
species, but that differ numerically within the species (e.g., two
distinct sins of theft, two distinct sins of calumny).

207. The rules for the numerical distinction of sins within the same
species suppose: (a) that the distinction be not taken from the object,
which gives the specific difference, but from the repetition of acts
with regard to one object, made either actually (by different acts) or
equivalently (by what is equal to different acts); (b) that the
distinction be not taken from a physical but from a moral consideration
of the acts.

208. Three rules of numerical distinction will be given, one for each
of the three following hypotheses: (a) many distinct acts are concerned
with morally distinct objects of the same species; (b) many distinct
acts are concerned with what is morally one object; (c) one act is
concerned with what are physically many, but morally one object.

209. First Rule of Numerical Distinction.--Many sinful acts, each of
which is concerned with an object that is distinct in number (morally
speaking) from the objects of the other acts, make as many numerically
distinct sins as there are acts and objects numerically distinct.
Example: He who fires distinct shots and unjustly kills three persons
is guilty of three murders.

210. Second Rule of Numerical Distinction.--Many sinful acts, all of
which are concerned with an object that is (morally speaking) one and
the same in number, make as many numerically distinct sins as there are
acts numerically distinct according to moral estimation.

211. When the acts concerned with the same object are purely internal,
they are multiplied numerically, according to moral estimation, in the
following cases:

(a) when they are repeated after having been renounced by an act of the
will. Example: He who hates in the morning, repents at noon, and
returns to his hate in the afternoon, commits two sins of hatred;

(b) when they are repeated after having been voluntarily discontinued,
if the interval between the two acts is so considerable that the second
act is not a mere continuation of the first. Example: He who in his
mind reviles an enemy passing by, then turns his attention to his work
and thinks no more about his anger, and later, seeing his enemy again,
reviles him mentally a second time, commits two sins;

(c) when they are repeated after having been involuntarily
discontinued, if a notable period (say, three hours) intervenes between
the two acts. Example: He who thinks thoughts of hatred until he falls
asleep, or until he is distracted from them by something unusual going
on about him, or by the entrance of a visitor, commits a second sin of
hatred, when he returns to the same thoughts, if the interruption was
so long that there is no moral connection between the two acts.

212. When acts tending to the same object are internal, but directed
towards completion in some external act, they are multiplied
numerically, in moral estimation, in the following cases:

(a) when they are repeated after having been renounced. Example: He who
decides to steal, but repents for his sin, and then again decides to
steal, commits two sins;

(b) when they are repeated after voluntary discontinuance, if the
interval is not merely momentary. Example: He who thinks over a plan to
acquire money unjustly, and then deliberately turns his thought away
and gives all his attention to lawful affairs, but later resumes the
dishonest planning, commits a new sin;

(c) when they are repeated after involuntary discontinuance, if the
interval is notable in view of the external act desired, and nothing
external was done that could serve as a link to unify the two acts.
Example: A burglar plans a robbery that could easily be carried out at
once, but he takes no steps to execute his plan, and soon forgets about
it. A month later, passing the house he had intended to rob, he
remembers his plan and carries it out. Two distinct sins were here

213. Involuntary discontinuance does not, however, separate the acts
into two distinct sins: (a) if the interval was brief in view of the
external act that was desired (e.g., if the burglar above mentioned had
forgotten his plan for a few days only before he renewed it and carried
it out); (b) if something had already been done by reason of the first
act (e.g., if the burglar, after resolving to rob the house, had
procured keys or tools for the purpose, and had kept them with this in
mind, although he allowed months and years to pass without making any
attempt to fulfill his design).

214. When the acts tending to the same object are external, they are
multiplied numerically in moral estimation, and make distinct sins as
follows: (a) if the internal acts from which they proceed are
numerically distinct sins (e.g., if a burglar attempts to rob a house,
but leaves his work unfinished because he becomes conscience-stricken
or is interrupted, and later makes another plan and another attempt,
there are two sins); (b) if the external acts are of such a kind that
no internal intention can make them morally one act, even when one
follows directly upon the other (e.g., missing Mass on Sunday and again
on the following day, a holyday, makes one guilty of two distinct
violations of the law).

215. In the following cases, however, distinct external acts with
reference to the same object do not multiply the number of sins: (a)
when these acts form a part of one moral whole, and are intended as
such by the agent (e.g., one who reads a forbidden book, but divides it
into parts, reading only so many pages a day); (b) when these acts have
to one another the relation of means to a common end, and they are
intended as such by the agent (e.g., various preparations made for

216. Third Rule of Numerical Distinction.--One sinful act, internal or
external, that is concerned with objects that are physically many, but
morally one, makes but one sin in number. Example: He who steals a
purse that contains ten bills commits one sin; he who calumniates a
family of ten persons commits one sin; he who steals what is the common
property of three proprietors commits one sin.

217. When the objects are not morally one of themselves, they may
become so through the belief of the one who acts, since distinct
malices are not incurred except as apprehended (see 588-592). Example:
He who tells three different lies against a neighbor (e.g., that he is
a thief, a drunkard and a liar), commits one sin of calumny, if he has
in mind general injury to reputation, but does not think at the time of
the special injuries contained in his calumny. Likewise, he who
calumniates before ten persons commits but one sin of calumny, if,
being in a passion, he thinks only of the harm he wishes to cause and
not of the number of persons who are present.

218. When the objects are morally one, they may become many through the
intention of the one who acts. Example: He who calumniates a family of
three persons by saying they are all dishonest, commits three sins, if
he intends three distinct injuries (e.g., against the business of one,
the religious reputation of another, and the friendship of the third).
So also he who steals part of the money in a purse, and later on,
having another opportunity, decides to steal the rest, commits two sins.

219. When the objects are not morally one in themselves and cannot be
apprehended as such, distinct sins are committed. Example: He who
intends to miss Mass all year, foresees at least in a confused way many
distinct violations of the law; he who purposes to rob various
proprietors foresees at least in a vague way many separate and complete
external acts of robbery.

220. Comparison of Sins.--Sins that differ in species differ also in
gravity, those being more serious that depart further from the norms of
reason and the law of God.

221. Other things being equal, those sins are worse that offend against
a more noble object or a more noble virtue. Hence, sins that are
directly against God (such as infidelity, despair, and hatred of God)
are the most serious of all; while sins against human personality (such
as murder) are more serious than those against human rights (such as

222. Of those sins that are opposed to the same virtue, that one is
worse which is opposed to the principal inclination of the virtue.
Thus, avarice is more foreign to the virtue of liberality than the
opposite vice of prodigality; timidity is more contrary to bravery than
its opposite rashness.

223. The gravity of a sin is increased in the following ways:

(a) by the circumstances, in so far as they give it a new species of
malice (e.g., theft from a church) or increase its malice within the
species (e.g., money given prodigally and to those who do not deserve
it, or money stolen in a large quantity);

(b) by the greater willingness with which the sin is committed. Hence,
those who sin through ignorance or under the excitement of passion are
less guilty than those who sin in cold blood;

(c) by the condition of the person offended. Thus, a sin is made worse
according as the person offended is nearer to God by reason of his
personal holiness or the sacredness of his state or the dignity of his
office, or is nearer to the offender himself. Hence, an injury is
greater if done to a priest, a public official or one's own family,
than if done to another who has not the same claim to honor or justice;

(d) by the condition of the person who sins. Those who are better
instructed or otherwise better advantaged, or who are supposed to give
good example to others, sin more grievously by reason of their greater
ingratitude and of the greater scandal they give, whenever they sin

(e) by the evil results that follow from the sin, when these are
willed, even indirectly or implicitly, as when one spreads stories that
are bound to cause enmities, strifes, and a lowering of ideals (see 96).

224. Spiritual and carnal sins, considered precisely as such, and other
things being equal, may be compared from two viewpoints, viz., of
malice and of reputation. (a) From the viewpoint of malice, spiritual
sins are worse, since, while a carnal sinner is carried away by strong
passion and offends directly only his own body, he who commits
spiritual sins acts with greater freedom and offends directly against
God and his neighbor. Hence, the Pharisees, though they despised the
fallen woman, were worse than she, since in the eyes of God their
pride, envy, detraction, hypocrisy, etc., were more hateful crimes.

(b) From the viewpoint of reputation, carnal sins are worse, since they
liken man more to the beast, and are thus more infamous.

225. In actual experience, carnal sins are frequently more grave than
non-carnal sins.

(a) Many carnal sins are not purely carnal, but also contain other
malice, and cause directly more injury to God or the neighbor than a
non-carnal sin of the same category. Example: Adultery combines both
lust and injustice, and is a greater injustice than the non-carnal sin
of theft. Rape combines lust and injury, and is more injurious than the
non-carnal sin of anger resulting in bodily blows. Lascivious
conversation combines impurity and spiritual damage to another, and is
more harmful than the non-carnal sin of detracting that other and
causing him some temporal injury.

(b) Many carnal sins are accompanied by greater malice or greater
scandal, or are followed by greater evils than purely spiritual sins.
Example: Sins of impurity or drunkenness, committed habitually and
deliberately or by adults, are more malicious than sins of pride or
anger committed rarely or without full deliberation, or by children.
Drunkenness or licentious language and suspicious intimacies, committed
by those from whom good example is expected, do more to undermine
religion than sins of impatience or uncharitableness in the same
persons. The results of a man's pride (such as ambition, arrogance,
luxurious living and deceitfulness) are often less disastrous than the
results of his intemperance (such as detraction, immodesty, fights,
extravagance, disgrace of family, etc.).

226. Sins different in species rank in the order of gravity, as said
above, according to their objects. For, just as diseases are considered
more serious when they affect more important vital organs or functions,
so sins are more grave when they affect more radical principles of
human conduct. The greater the object or end of action that is injured,
therefore, the greater is the harm done and the greater the sin
committed. Hence: (a) sins committed directly against God are worse
than sins committed against creatures, for God is the end of all
creatures; (b) sins committed against persons are greater than sins
committed against things, for persons are the end of things.

227. Of the sins committed against God, the rank according to gravity
is: (a) sins against the personality of God--that is, against the
divine nature--such as hatred of God (the greatest of all sins),
infidelity, despair; (b) sins against the peculiar possessions of
God--that is, His external honor and glory, and those things that
belong to Him in a special way, such as the humanity of Christ
hypostatically united to the Word, the Sacraments, and things
consecrated to God. Such sins are idolatry, superstition, perjury, the
sins of those who had Christ crucified, simony, sacrilege, unworthy
reception of the Eucharist or other Sacrament, violation of vows, etc.

228. Sins committed against creatures, other things being equal, rank
in gravity as follows: (a) Sins against personality are greater than
sins against possessions. Example: The sin of murder, which is against
personality, is worse than the sin of theft, which is against
possessions. (b) Sins against being are greater than sins against
wellbeing. Examples: Murder is worse than mutilation, and scandal that
causes another to lose his soul is worse than scandal that only
diminishes another's goodness; murder and the irreparable scandal take
away life, mutilation and the lesser scandal only diminish the
perfection of the life that is had. (c) Sins against those who have a
greater claim are greater than sins against those who have a less
claim. Examples: It is a greater sin to neglect one's own salvation
than that of a neighbor; to murder a member of one's own family, a
benefactor, or a person distinguished on account of his position or
virtue, is a greater crime than to murder a stranger, an enemy, a
private individual, or one of bad life. (d) Sins against possessions
that are dearer are graver offenses. Examples: It is worse to steal
away the peace of a household than to carry off its material treasures;
it is worse to rob a man of his good name than to defraud him of his

229. The above rating of sins is based on their natures considered in
the abstract, that is, according to the essential relations they have
to their own proper objects. It is impossible to consider any other
factor when drawing up general rules of comparison; for the
circumstances that enter into concrete cases of sin are innumerable,
and hence have to be left out of consideration. By reason of these
factors other than the object, however, the ranking of sins according
to gravity given above may be changed or reversed.

(a) In the act of a greater sin there may be extenuating circumstances,
or in the act of a lesser sin aggravating circumstances that change
their respective order. Example: Detraction is from its nature worse
than theft; but, if the detraction does only small harm and the theft
great harm, the theft is worse on account of the circumstances.

(b) In the persons who commit the sins there may be circumstances that
change the order of guilt, so that he who commits the greater sin is
less guilty. Examples: By his careless handling of a revolver, Balbus
unintentionally causes lasting injury to a bystander. Caius without
malice aforethought, but enraged by an unexpected insult, strikes a
blow that destroys the sight in one eye of his adversary. Titus, angry
because he has been dismissed from his employment, revenges himself by
defacing a precious work of art. The bodily injuries caused by the
first two men are more harmful than the injury to property done by
Titus; but they sinned, the one from ignorance and the other from
passion, whereas Titus sinned from malice. Hence, while the sins of
Balbus and Caius are objectively or materially greater, that of Titus
is greater subjectively or formally (i.e., as to guilt).

230. The Subjects of Sin.--By the subjects of sin we understand the
powers of the soul in which sin is found. These powers are sometimes
called the material causes of sin, just as the objects to which the
sins tend are called their formal causes.

231. Just as virtuous habits have their seats in the will (e.g.,
justice), in the reason (e.g., prudence), and in the sensitive
appetites (e.g., fortitude and temperance), so also contrary habits of
vice may be found in these same faculties. (a) From the sensitive
appetites proceed impulses caused by sense apprehension or bodily
states, which, when they are inordinate and voluntary, are sinful
(e.g., lust, envy; see 129, on Second Motions). (b) From the reason
proceed false judgments caused by vincible ignorance, wrong direction
deliberately given to the passions, pleasurable dwelling on inordinate
thoughts, etc. (c) From the will proceed consent given to sins of the
other powers, desires to commit sin, joy over sin already committed,

232. As was said above (89-93), the external acts of the members of the
body have no morality of their own, since they are completely subject
to the will. Consequently, there are only three classes of sins, if
classification is made according to the faculties from which the sins
proceed: (a) sins of sensuality, which were spoken of above when we
treated of the passions (177 sqq.); (b) sins of thought; (c) sins of
desire and reminiscent approval.

233. Pleasurable dwelling on inordinate thoughts occurs when one
deliberately, even though it be only for a moment, turns over in his
mind some sinful object, delighting in it as if it were actually
present, but not desiring that it be actually done. Example; One who
imagines his neighbor's house burned down, and rejoices at the mental
picture, though for interested reasons he does not wish any
conflagration in the vicinity.

234. The sinful thoughts just described are not to be confused with
thoughts in which the object of the delight is something else than a
sinful picture represented in the mind.

Thoughts of this latter kind are: (a) those in which one takes delight
in an external act of sin being committed, as when one destroys one's
neighbor's property with great internal satisfaction; here the thought
forms one sin with the outer act; (b) those in which one delights in
the mental image, not as it represents something morally wrong, but as
it contains some object of lawful delight. There is a distinction
between bad thoughts and thoughts on things that are bad. Examples: A
moralist may think with pleasure about theft, not because he approves
of it, but because it is a subject he has to know. A person may read
detective stories with great interest, not because crime appeals to
him, but because the style of the author is good, the details of the
plot exciting, the manner of the crime mysterious, etc. There is danger
in thoughts of this kind, however, if one indulges in them from mere
curiosity, or immoderately, or if sin itself may take an attraction
through them.

235. The gravity and species of pleasurable dwelling on inordinate
thoughts vary according to the thing thought on (see on Objects, etc.,
70 sqq.). (a) If pleasure is taken only in the object represented, the
sin has the moral character of that object. Example: He who delights at
the thought of theft, is guilty of theft; and if he thinks of a great
theft, he is guilty of mortal sin. (b) If pleasure is also taken in the
circumstances imaged in the mind, the sin takes on the added malice
contained in the circumstances. Example: He who delights over the
thought of the robbery of a church, is guilty of mental theft and

236. The following are signs that delight taken in a thought about
sinful things is about their sinfulness, and not about some other of
their properties: (a) if one thinks about them without any lawful
necessity (such as that of study), but through mere curiosity, or
without any good reason; (b) if at the same time one loves to think on
them frequently and lingeringly, or shown great satisfaction whenever
they are mentioned. Example: One who thinks about injustices for
pastime and admires them as great exploits, who idolizes criminals as
heroes or martyrs.

237. Sinful joy is an act of the will by which one takes delight in
sins already committed by oneself or by others. We must distinguish
between sinful joy and joy about things that are sinful.

(a) Sinful joy rejoices over the iniquity contained in past acts,
either because it loves that iniquity in itself, or because it loves it
as the cause of some gain. Examples: An unjust and revengeful man
rejoices when he thinks of the oppression he exercised against some
helpless person who had incurred his wrath. A criminal recalls with joy
the perjuries by which his helpers secured his escape from justice.

(b) Joy about things that are sinful or consequent on sin rejoices, not
that what was done was wicked, but over other circumstances that were
good or indifferent. Examples: An employer admires in the conduct of a
dishonest employee, not the injustice committed, but the shrewd manner
in which the fraud was perpetrated. A bystander is very much amused to
witness a fight, not because he likes discord, but because the acts and
remarks of the fighters are comical. A man rejoices when he hears that
a friend has committed suicide and made him his heir, if the joy is
confined to the second part of the news.

238. The moral gravity and species of evil rejoicing has the same
character as the past sins that are its object (see 70 sqq.). For to
rejoice over sin is to approve of it, and therefore to be guilty of it
in will. Example: A prisoner who, to overcome melancholy, thinks over
the times he became intoxicated in the past, is guilty again of those
sins, with their number and circumstances adverted to.

239. What has been said about evil rejoicing applies likewise: (a) to
boasting over sin committed, because this implies complacency in the
sin; (b) to sorrow over sin omitted, because this means that one
approves of sin rather than virtue.

240. To be sorry because one performed good that was not obligatory is
not sinful of itself, but it may become so by reason of the evil motive
of the sorrow, or of the danger of sin. Examples: If a person is sorry
that he performed many unnecessary devotional exercises, because he
injured his health thereby, his sorrow is not sinful. If he grieves
over this because he now dislikes religion, his sorrow is made bad by
his evil motive. If he regrets that he married, this is sinful if it
leads him to neglect the duties of his state and commit injustice.

241. Evil desires are acts of the will by which one deliberately
intends to commit sin in the future. They are of two kinds, viz.,
absolute and conditional: (a) absolute or efficacious desires are those
in which the mind is fully made up to carry out the evil design, come
what may; (b) conditional or inefficacious desires are those in which
the purpose to commit sin hinges upon the fulfillment of some event or
circumstance that is explicitly or implicitly willed.

242. Absolute evil desires have the same moral gravity and species as
that to which they tend (i.e., they take their character from the
object, end and circumstances). Example: He who plans to steal a large
sum from a benefactor in order to be able to live in idleness and
dissipation, sins gravely against justice, and is also guilty of
ingratitude and intemperance, for he has committed all these sins in
his heart.

243. Conditional evil desires, if they are indeliberate and express
rather the propensity of nature than the considered will of him who
makes them, are not formally sinful. Examples: A poor man who
unthinkingly wishes that stealing were lawful; a sufferer who under the
influence of pain wishes that the Almighty had not forbidden suicide.

244. Conditional desires, if made deliberately, are of two kinds. (a)
There are some desires in which the condition willed (e.g., if this
were not a sin, if this were lawful, if this were allowed by God, etc.)
takes away the malice of the act desired, since some laws may be
dispensed or changed. Examples: "Would that God had not pronounced
against taking the property of others!" "I would stay away from church,
if this were not Sunday." Desires of this kind are not sinful on
account of their object, which is not really wished, but on account of
their end, or their lack of useful purpose, and of the danger that the
conditional may become absolute. (b) There are other desires in which
the condition does not take away the malice of what is desired, either
because the condition is not at all concerned with the malice, or
because it wishes something to become lawful which even God cannot make
lawful. Examples: "I would steal, if this could be done safely." "I
would blaspheme, if God permitted." These desires partake of the malice
of the things that are wished.

245. Just as we distinguished above between bad thoughts and thoughts
on things that are bad, so may we distinguish between bad desires and
desires of what is bad. For bad desires that are not mere velleities
are sinful, as we have just seen; whereas the desire of what is
physically evil is good, if the evil is wished, not for its own sake,
but for the sake of some greater good. Example: To desire out of hatred
that a neighbor lose his arm is a bad desire and sinful; but if one
wished this as a means to save the neighbor's life, while he still
desires something evil, it is not the evil but the benefit that is
intended, and hence the desire itself is not bad.

246. The Causes of Sin.--The causes of sin are partly internal (i.e.,
those which are in man himself) and partly external (i.e., those which
are without).

247. The internal causes of sin are: (a) ignorance in the intellect;
(b) passion in the sensitive appetites; (c) malice in the will.

248. Since ignorance and passion may render an act involuntary (see 40
sqq.), the sins that result from them are of two kinds, viz., material
and formal. (a) Material or objective sins are transgressions of the
law that are involuntary, and consequently not imputable as faults.
Examples: Blasphemies uttered by one who is delirious or hypnotized;
breaking of the fast by one who is inculpably ignorant of the law;
imprecations pronounced by a person out of his mind through fear. (b)
Formal or subjective sins are transgressions of the law that are
voluntary, and hence imputable as faults. They are not only against the
law, as is the case with material sins, but they are also against

249. Ignorance, passion and malice cause sin as follows:

(a) Every sin results from practical error (i.e., from a wrong decision
as to what one should do here and now), for the will chooses wrong only
after the intellect has decided on wrong. In this sense, then, it is
said that all who sin are in error (Prov,, xiv. 22), and that every
sinner is in ignorance (Aristotle, _Nich. Ethics_, Bk. III, c.1, 1110b
27). But not every sin results from speculative error (i.e., from a
false notion or judgment about the lawfulness of an act in general).
else we should have to hold that everyone who sins is in error against
the faith;

(b) Speculative ignorance causes formal sin, when the ignorance is
culpable and leads to wrongdoing, as when a person has never taken the
pains to learn what the law of fast requires and in consequence
violates the law, or when an automobilist through carelessness does not
see a person crossing the street and runs him down. Speculative
ignorance causes material sin, when the lack of knowledge is inculpable
and leads one to do what one would not otherwise do, as when a child
shoots a playmate, not knowing that this is a sin, or a soldier shoots
a comrade whom, on account of darkness, he mistook for an enemy spy;

(c) Passion, by clouding the judgment and vehemently inciting the will,
leads one to act against one's better knowledge and to choose
inordinately the concupiscences of pleasure, or possessions, or glory
(I John, ii. 16). If the passion is voluntary, the resulting sin is
formal; but, if the passion is involuntary and takes away the use of
reason, the sin caused is material;

(d) Malice is found in a sense in every formal sin, inasmuch as every
sin is committed out of choice. But malice in the strict sense, as here
understood, is a choice of sin made, not on account of preceding
ignorance or passion, but on account of some corrupt disposition of the
sinner which makes sin pleasing or acceptable to him, such as a vicious
habit or inclination which he cultivates, or willful despair or
presumption which he entertains.

250. Ignorance and passion do not always make an act involuntary (see
40 sqq.), and hence three kinds of formal sins may be distinguished
according to the three kinds of causes from which they proceed:

(a) sins of weakness, which are those that result from antecedent
concupiscence or other passion that lessens without taking away the
voluntariness of an act. Since the First Person of the Trinity is
especially described by the attribute of almighty power, sins of this
kind are sometimes called sins against the Father;

(b) sins of ignorance, which are those that result from antecedent and
vincible ignorance. Since wisdom is especially attributed to the Second
Person of the Trinity, sins of this kind are called sins against the

(c) sins of malice, which are those that proceed entirely from a free
will that is undisturbed by ignorance or passion. Since love is
especially ascribed to the Third Person of the Trinity, sins of this
class are sometimes called sins against the Holy Ghost. Example: One
whose heart is so set on wealth that he decides to sacrifice the
friendship of God for new acquisitions; one who sees clearly the
offense to God a sin entails, and deliberately chooses it; one who is
so jealous of a neighbor that he schemes to ruin him; one who sins
habitually without fear or remorse.

251. Other things being equal, sins of malice are graver than sins of
weakness and sins of ignorance, since the former are more voluntary,
more enduring, and more dangerous. But just as sins of ignorance and
sins of weakness may be mortal, as when their object is seriously
wrong, so sins of malice may be venial, as when their object is not
seriously wrong. A fully deliberate lie that works no great harm is
venially sinful, whereas a murder committed by one who was intoxicated
or moved by rage is a mortal sin, if there was sufficient reflection.

252. The external causes of sin are: (a) the devil or other evil
spirits, who by acting on the imagination or other sensitive powers of
the soul attempt to draw mankind to destruction; (b) the world, that
is, the persons and things about us, which by their seductiveness, or
by their principles and examples, tend to draw away from the practice
of virtue.

253. Since free consent is implied in the concept of formal sin, none
of the internal or external causes of sin just mentioned, the choice of
the will alone excepted, can actually effect sin. Hence the distinction
between temptation and sin. The rebellion of the passions, the
suggestions of evil spirits, the seductions of the world, are
temptations; if the will does not yield to them, there is no sin, but
rather virtue and merit.

254. In the presence of temptation fully adverted to, it is not lawful
to remain indifferent (neither consenting nor dissenting), since this
without just cause exposes one to the danger (see 258 sqq.) of being
overcome by sin.

255. Resistance to temptation is made by the act of the will which
commands the other powers not to yield and withholds its own consent to
the sin suggested. This resistance may be:

(a) implicit or explicit, according as the dissent is expressed in what
contains it, or is expressed in itself. Examples: Contempt of a
temptation or displeasure over its presence is implicit resistance,
while the resolve never to yield to it is explicit resistance;

(b) internal or external, according as it remains in the will, or is
also exercised by the other powers. Examples: Displeasure over an
uncharitable thought is internal resistance, while the reading of a
book to divert the mind from the thought is external resistance;

(c) indirect or direct, according as the means employed to drive away a
temptation are flight or attack. Examples: One who is disturbed by
thoughts of hatred, resists them indirectly if he goes to the opera in
order to be calmed by music, while he resists them directly, if he
reads prayerfully I Cor. xiii, in order to become more charitable;

(d) virtual or actual, according as the act of dissent made, and not
retracted, is adverted to or not. Examples: If a man rejects a
temptation of envy as soon as he notices it, and repeats this act of
rejection until the temptation has disappeared, his resistance is
actual; if he rejects the temptation once for all as soon as it
appears, but is not able to think of this purpose at each instant, his
resistance was actual at the beginning, but virtual afterwards.

256. General rules regarding resistance to temptation: (a) it is a
grave sin not to resist temptation, when the sin suggested is grave,
the danger of consent serious, and the negligence considerable;
otherwise the sin is venial; (b) negligence is considerable when the
resistance used is not at all in proportion to the temptation. Example:
If a man were suddenly to advert to the fact that a shrewd plan he had
decided on was gravely unjust, he would be seriously negligent if he
put off recalling the decision till he had dwelt more fully on its
appealing features.

257. The kind of resistance to be opposed to temptation depends on the
character and urgency of the temptation and the disposition of the
person tempted. (a) Generally speaking, the more serious the
temptation, the stronger should be the resistance. Example: One who
knows from experience that temptations to hatred overcome him, if he
uses only internal resistance, should make use of external resistance
also. (b) In those cases in which the violence of the temptation
increases in proportion to the strength of the resistance, it is better
that the resistance be internal, indirect, etc. Examples: Temptations
against faith are often overcome more readily by turning the mind away
from the doubts suggested to other matters. Temptations that last a
long time may be conquered more easily by despising them than by
worrying about them and renewing protest after protest. The same is
true as regards temptations against purity.

258. Danger of sin is the likelihood that it will be committed in
certain circumstances. It is of two kinds, proximate and remote. (a)
Danger of sin is proximate, when there is moral certainty that in given
circumstances sin will be committed, either because the generality of
mankind falls in such cases (absolute danger), or because in them a
particular individual has always fallen (relative danger). Examples:
Associating with depraved persons is a proximate danger of sin for
anyone, since it is a matter of universal experience that evil
associations corrupt good morals. Taking strong drink is a proximate
danger for one who has never imbibed moderately in the past. (b) Danger
of sin is remote, when the likelihood that sin will be committed is not
morally certain, and does not exclude a serious and well-founded
probability or expectation to the contrary. Example: There is remote
danger in an occasional drink, if a person who had several times
relapsed into intemperance, has practised abstemiousness for years.

259. Possibility of sin is the conceivability but unlikelihood that it
will result from a certain set of circumstances. Example: Attention to
business sometimes makes a man avaricious, practices of piety may
degenerate into hypocrisy, etc., but there is no natural connection
between industry and devotion, on the one hand, and greed and
insincerity, on the other hand. Sin follows naturally from its danger,
but only accidentally from its possibility.

260. It is not lawful imprudently to expose oneself to the danger of
sin, since it is manifestly against reason to risk spiritual loss
without cause. The character of the sin of him who does this differs
according to circumstances. (a) He who rashly exposes himself to the
proximate danger of grave sin, or to what he foresees will become
proximate danger, is guilty of grave sin and of the species of sin to
which he exposes himself--and this even though the sin does not
actually follow. For to love what is so closely related to the sin is
to love the sin itself. (b) He who rashly exposes himself to the remote
danger of grave sin or to the proximate danger of venial sin is
venially guilty. For, while such action is unreasonable, it does not
imply affection for grave sin.

261. It is lawful to expose oneself to the danger of sin, if this can
be done according to the laws of prudence, for otherwise absurdities
would follow (e.g., that urgent duties should not be performed, if one
feared they contained the danger of sin). The requirements of prudence
referred to are: (a) that the one who exposes himself to the danger of
sin be sure that his motive is good (viz., that he firmly intends to
avoid the sin to which he may be tempted and to accomplish only the
good he desires); (b) that the action he performs and which involves
the danger is necessary, and bears a correspondence in importance to
the gravity of the sin and the proximity of the risk; (c) that means be
employed (e.g., prayer, pious thoughts, spiritual reading, and the use
of the Sacraments), which will so reduce the danger that one has
confident assurance that the danger will be encountered safely.

262. It is lawful to expose oneself to the possibility of sin, for,
since almost every action may be perverted, one who wished to avoid the
possibility of sin would have to leave this world and become confirmed
in grace.

263. The Occasions of Sin are external circumstances--persons, places
or things--which tempt one to sin. Examples: Persons who invite others
to defraud and show how it can be accomplished, theatres where
irreligious plays are staged, books that aim to depreciate virtue, etc.

264. The occasions of sin are of various kinds. (a) They are proximate
or remote, according as it is morally certain, or only likely that they
will lead to sin. (b) Occasions are necessary or free, according as one
is able or not able to abandon them without difficulty. For example,
one who chooses dishonest persons as his associates is in a free
occasion of sin; one who is imprisoned with criminals is in a necessary
occasion of sin. An occasion of sin is also necessary when the
impossibility of leaving it is not physical, but moral. Examples: A
wife who is bound to a provoking husband; a person who cannot give up
an employment that offers many temptations, without suffering great
temporal or spiritual injury, or without incurring a worse condition.
(c) Occasions are present or absent, according as one has the occasion
with him or must go to seek it. Examples; Intoxicants kept in his home
are a present occasion of sin for a drunkard; atheistic lectures are an
absent occasion of sin for one who has to go out to hear them.

265. It is not lawful to remain in a free occasion of sin,, whether it
be present or absent; for to do so is to expose oneself rashly to the
danger of sin (see 258 sqq.).

266. It is not lawful for one who is in a necessary occasion of sin to
neglect means that are adapted to preserve him from the moral contagion
by which he is surrounded; for to neglect spiritual safeguards and
protections in such a case is to refuse to resist temptation (see 252
sqq.). The means that should be used depend on circumstances, but
prayer and firm resolves to avoid sin should be employed in every case.

267. The gravity of the sin committed by one who freely remains in an
occasion of sin, or who does not use the requisite spiritual helps in a
necessary occasion, depends on various factors: (a) if the sin to which
he is tempted is light, he does not sin gravely; (b) if the sin to
which he is tempted is serious, and the occasion is proximate, he sins
gravely; (c) if the occasion is remote, he sins venially.

268. The Motives of Sin.--The purposes that lead men to sin can be
considered as follows: (a) according to the predominant vices of
individual men, which are for them motives for committing their other
sins (particular motives)--e.g., a man whose chief sin is unbelief and
who is led by it to intolerance, blasphemy, despair, etc.; (b)
according to the natural relation to error and sin, and the sensitive
appetites tending inordinately towards delights or away from
difficulties; (c) the body which had been in subjection to the soul and
endowed with freedom from suffering and mortality, became burdensome to
the soul and subject to pain and death.

274. The consequences that are common to all sin, both original and
actual, are: (a) the sinner loses the spiritual beauty to which sin is
opposed, and this loss is called the stain of sin, since the soul
defiles itself by inordinate contact with what it loves; (b) the sinner
incurs the debt of punishment, since sin is an injustice against the
internal law of reason and against the external law of God and man.

275. The stain of sin is not: (a) a mere privation or absence of grace,
for otherwise all sins would be the same; nor (b) a mere passing shadow
over the soul, since the bad state of the will can remain after the act
of sin.

276. The stain of sin differs according to the sin. (a) The stain of
original sin is the privation of original justice (i.e., of the
subjection of reason and will to God), as being a voluntary privation
through the will of the first parent Adam; (b) the stain of mortal sin
is the privation of sanctifying grace, as connoting the act of the
individual will through which it was incurred; (c) the stain of venial
sin is the privation of the fervor of charity resulting from the sin,
inasmuch as it, to some extent, hinders the beauty of interior grace
from appearing in external acts.

277. The stain of grave sin is the disfigurement of death, for (a) it
removes the principle of supernatural existence (i.e., grace); (b) it
takes away the principles of supernatural activity (i.e., the infused
habits), though faith and hope may remain; (c) it deprives the soul of
the rights that belong to the spiritually living (i.e., of merits
already acquired).

278. The stain of venial sin is the disfigurement of disease, for (a)
it disposes one for spiritual death (i.e., for mortal sin); (b) it
lessens spiritual vitality, by setting up habits that make the practice
of the virtues more difficult.

279. The penalty of sin is threefold according to the threefold offense
of sin. (a) Inasmuch as sin is against reason, it is punished by
remorse of conscience; (b) inasmuch as it is against ecclesiastical,
civil or other human law, it is punished by man; (c) inasmuch as it is
against divine law, it is punished by God.

280. The punishment of sin is twofold according to its duration. (a)
Grave sin, since it deprives of spiritual life and turns man away from
his Last End, introduces a radical and, of itself, irreparable
disorder, and thus incurs an eternal punishment; those who die in grave
sin will be sentenced to eternal punishment. (b) Venial sin does not
inflict spiritual death, but is a defect or excess, not as regards the
Last End, but as regards the means to the Last End. Thus, it incurs,
not an eternal, but a temporal punishment.

281. The punishment of sin is twofold according to its quality. (a) Sin
by which man turns away from his Last End is punished by the pain of
loss, the deprivation of eternal happiness which was despised. This
pain may be called infinite, inasmuch as it is the loss of Infinite
Good. (b) Sin, in so far as it is an inordinate turning towards created
things, is punished by the pain of sense, which comes through
creatures. This pain is finite.

282. Sin may be a punishment of sin: (a) if a later sin results from a
former sin (e.g., God may permit those who refuse to serve Him, to
become the servants of their passions); (b) if the commission of sin is
accompanied by internal or external sufferings (e.g., the jealous
indulge their vice at the expense of great mental torment).

283. Not all the afflictions that befall mankind are chastisements. In
the strict sense, only those evils are punishments which are inflicted
by the lawgiver against the will of the offender as a vindication of
justice violated by the personal offense of the latter. Hence we must
distinguish punishment from the following: (a) from satisfaction, which
is compensation willingly endured for one's own sin, or freely offered
for another's (e.g., David after his repentance performed penance for
his sins; Christ on the cross offered His satisfaction for the human
race); (b) from medicinal afflictions, which are intended, not as
reparations to injured justice, but as remedies to preserve men against
sin or relapse, or to afford them opportunities for progress (e.g., the
calamities of Job, the condition of the man born blind, the dolors of
the Blessed Virgin, the physical evils Which in this world sometimes
happen to subjects as a punishment on their rulers, etc.); (c) from the
natural defects of fallen human nature, such as hunger, thirst,
disease, etc. These are only indirectly the consequences of original
sin, the direct punishment, from which they follow, being the infirmity
and corruption of nature produced by original sin.

Question III


284. In the previous Question we considered the internal principles of
human acts--that is, habits, good and bad, from which they proceed. Now
we shall turn to the external principles, good and bad, that move one
to one's acts. The external principle that moves to evil is the demon,
who tempts us to sin;  the external principle that moves to good is
God, who instructs us by His law and helps us by His grace to fulfill
it. Temptation has been discussed already, and grace belongs to
Dogmatic Theology; the next Question to be considered, therefore, is


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 90-92.)

285. Definition.--Law is an ordinance of the reason for the common good
promulgated by him who has authority in the community.

(a) It is an ordinance, that is, a command or prohibition which has
obligatory and lasting force. Hence, advice is not a law, because not
obligatory; a rule that binds only during the lifetime of the lawgiver
or of those who received it is not strictly a law, because not enduring.

(b) It is an ordinance of the reason, since the rule and standard of
human acts is reason (see 64 sqq.). Hence, the arbitrary will of a
ruler commanding what is against reason would not be law, but rather

(c) It is made for the common good, that is, it must tend to promote,
directly or indirectly, general happiness, which is the end of society.
Hence, the commands of a tyrant which benefit a few at the expense of
public peace and prosperity are not truly laws.

(d) It is made by him who has authority, that is, by the person or
persons who have the lawmaking power according to the form of
government. Hence, the decisions of an advisory body or the decrees of
a usurper are not laws.

(e) It is made by the proper authority in a community, that is, as here
understood, in a self-sufficing community, which has its own means for
attaining its end and is independent in its own order of other
societies. Hence, the regulations made by parents for their family are
not called laws, since the family is not a self-sufficing society.

(f) It is an ordinance that has been promulgated, that is, brought to
the notice of those whom it binds. Hence, a law that has been drawn up
but not published as such, is not obligatory even for those who know of
its existence. A law becomes obligatory, however, as soon as it has
been promulgated, and the presumption then is that the law is known;
but he who is inculpably ignorant is not guilty of formal sin if he
breaks the law.

286. Division.--According as the immediate lawgiver is God or man, laws
are divine or human. Divine laws are threefold: (a) the eternal law is
the ordinance of the divine mind which from eternity has directed the
motions and actions of all creatures for the common good of the
universe; (b) the natural law is the light of man's reason as an
impression and reflection of the eternal law; (c) the positive divine
law is that which God of His free will has added to the natural law,
viz., the Mosaic law under the Old Testament and the law of the Gospel
under the New Testament.

287. Human laws are ecclesiastical or civil according to the authority
from which they originate.

288. Collision of Laws.--Not infrequently it happens that opposite laws
seem to call for fulfillment at the same time, as, when in case of
unjust attack it seems that one is bound to defend oneself and bound
not to injure the other party. Hence arises a conflict of obligations
and rights. But the difficulty is only apparent; for, since God is a
just and wise lawgiver, He does not intend either that one should be
held to impossibilities, or that a superior obligation should yield to
one that is inferior. Hence, the rule in such cases of apparent
collision of laws is:

(a) if a person can recognize which of the two obligations is superior,
he is bound to follow that one; (b) if he is unable to discover after
careful examination which obligation has the greater claim, and must
decide at once, he may decide for the law whose observance seems to him
safer; or, if he sees no difference as regards safety, he may decide
for either as he wishes. If the decision is wrong, the error is
involuntary, and hence not imputable as sin.

289. When the contending precepts belong to different categories of
law, the higher law must be followed. (a) The natural law has
precedence over the positive law, divine or human. For example, the
natural law of self-preservation allowed David to eat the loaves of
proposition, a thing forbidden by the positive divine law. The same law
of self-preservation allows a starving man to take what does not belong
to him according to human laws, if it is necessary for his life. The
same law of self-preservation excuses one from assisting at Mass, if
one is very ill.

(b) The positive divine law has precedence over human law. Example: The
command of Christ to his Apostles to preach His Name was to be obeyed
rather than the command of the Sanhedrin to the contrary (Acts, v. 19).
(c) The ecclesiastical law has precedence over civil law, for the end
of the Church is higher than that of the State, and the Church's
judgment about the means to her end should prevail.

290. The precedence of ecclesiastical over civil law does not mean that
the Church has the right to interfere in matters that belong to the
jurisdiction of the State, or that the Church should insist on settling
every dispute by its own action alone.

(a) A law on matters purely civil and political made by the Church in
opposition to a law of the State would not prevail over the latter,
for, as the Church admits, "whatever is to be ranged under the civil
and political order is rightly subject to the civil authority" (Leo

(b) A law on matters directly or indirectly spiritual, made by the
Church but not necessary to her end, can be made the subject of
negotiation or even of compromise by the Church in order to avoid a
conflict of laws; in fact, the Church has shown her willingness to make
concessions, where possible, for the common peace and happiness.

291. When contending laws belong to the same category of laws, the more
important, or more urgent, or more necessary law prevails.

(a) The law that defends greater goods (those that are spiritual,
internal, or common) has precedence over the law that defends lesser
goods (the temporal, external, or private). Examples: The natural law
that one must save oneself from persecution and death yields to the
natural law that one must not blaspheme or deny God, and hence one must
prefer to die rather than blaspheme. The law that one may not expose
one's life to danger yields to the law that the common welfare must be
defended; hence, citizens are obliged to go to war when the nation
calls, pastors and physicians to remain at their posts in time of
pestilence, disaster, etc.

(b) Obligations of justice have precedence over obligations of charity,
for in the former case a stricter right is in question. Example: Titus
is keeping $5.00 in order to pay a debt to Caius, who needs the money
today; Balbus, who is very poor, asks Titus to give the money to him.
Titus should pay Caius.

(c) Negative or prohibitory laws have precedence over affirmative or
preceptive laws (see 371). Example: Titus is asked to write out a
testimonial stating that he knows that Balbus is honest, competent,
etc. Balbus has claims on the help of Titus on account of a promise
made in the past; but Titus knows very well that Balbus is not
competent, honest, etc. The law forbidding lies prevails here over the
law that one keep a promise made.

292. Since rights and duties are correlative--there being a duty that
corresponds to every right, and vice versa--and since both are
regulated by law, the principles given for the apparent collision of
laws can be applied to the apparent collision of rights.

(a) Rights of a higher kind have preference over rights of a lower
kind. Therefore, the rights that arise from birth itself, or from the
fact that one is a human being (e.g., the right to life), are superior
to the rights that are acquired through some condition, such as
inheritance or contract (e.g., the right to property, etc.). Example:
Titus must get his child, who is in danger of death, to a hospital
without delay. Balbus is getting ready for a pleasure ride, but Titus
takes his car since there is no other ready means of getting to the
hospital. Titus acts within his natural rights, if the car is returned
safely and as soon as possible to the owner. According to civil law his
act would be technical larceny, but in view of the necessity courts and
juries would certainly not insist on the letter of the law.

(b) Inalienable rights (i.e., those which one may not renounce, because
they are also duties), such as the right to serve God, the right to
live, etc., are superior to alienable rights (i.e., those which one may
renounce), such as the right to marry, the right to own property, etc.
Example: One may surrender the right to drink intoxicants in order to
serve God or preserve one's life.

293. The Basis of All Laws.--Prior to every other law and the ground
and principle of all laws is the Eternal Law; for, since this is the
plan of Divine Wisdom directing from eternity all acts and movements to
their particular ends and to the end of the universe, it follows that
all other laws are reflections of the eternal plan and realizations of
the divine decree. The Eternal Law differs from other laws in various

(a) as to duration. The Eternal Law existed before anything was made,
whereas all other laws begin to exist when they are promulgated;

(b) as to breadth of application. The Eternal Law regulates, not only
contingent things (such as actions) but also necessary things (such as
that man should have a soul, hands and feet); for all things created,
whether they be contingent or necessary, are subject to divine
government. Human laws, as is evident, cannot regulate what is
necessary (e.g., it would be foolish for them to decree that men must
or must not have souls);

(c) as to subjects. The Eternal Law rules, not only rational creatures
(i.e., angels and men), but also irrational creatures, such as matter,
plants, and animals. The former are ruled through commands, which
require that they direct themselves to their End; the latter are ruled
through the inclinations given them by God, which move them to the ends
He desires them to attain. Human laws cannot regulate the acts of
irrational creatures, for these creatures cannot understand a command
as such, and man cannot give them natural inclinations (e.g., it would
be foolish to make a law for cats against the catching of birds).

294. The laws to be considered in the pages that follow are temporal
and moral. Thus: (a) they are laws promulgated at some particular time,
either from the beginning of humanity (as is the case with the Natural
Law) or later (e.g., the Mosaic Law, the Christian Law, etc,); (b) they
are laws regulating, not the necessary (as is the case with
metaphysical or mathematical laws), but the contingent; (c) they are
laws given, not to the irrational creature (as is the case with
physical and biological laws), but to the rational, that it may attain
its end through self-government in accordance with law.


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 93, 94.)

295. Meaning.--The Natural Law is so called for the following reasons:
(a) it is received by man, not through special promulgation, but along
with his rational nature. Hence, St. Paul says that the Gentiles, who
had not received the laws specially promulgated, were a law unto
themselves, that is, through their rational nature (Rom., ii. 14); (b)
it includes only such precepts as can be known or deduced from the very
nature of man, and thus some pagans fulfilled the Law of Moses
naturally, i.e., as regards its natural precepts (Rom., ii. 14); (c) it
can be known from the natural light of reason without instruction,
being a law written on the heart of man (Rom, ii. 15).

The Natural Law is defined theologically as a participation of the
Eternal Law in man. Three elements constitute its essence in its
integrity: (a) a passive participation of the Eternal Law consisting in
man's nature and faculties with their inclinations to their proper acts
and ends. This man shares with all creatures. (b) an active
participation in the Eternal Law proper to man. This consists in the
activity of man's intellect through which he shares in God's providence
and government in a special way as one who can rule himself and others.
Reason, reflecting upon the natural inclinations and ordering them to
their proper acts and ends, formulates (c) a dictate or command of the
practical reason. This command constitutes the essence of Natural Law.
"Hence the Psalmist after saying (Psalm, IV. 6): _Offer up the
sacrifice of justice_, as though some one asked what the works of
justice are, adds: _Many say, Who showeth us good things_, in answer to
which he says: _The light of thy countenance, 0 Lord, is signed upon
us_. Thus the Psalmist implies that the light of natural reason,
whereby we discern what is good and bad, which is the function of the
Natural Law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the divine light.
It is therefore evident that the Natural Law is nothing else than the
rational creature's participation in the eternal law" (_Summa Theol_.
I-II, q. 91, a.2).

296. Relation of the Natural Law to Other Laws.-(a) The Natural Law is
inferior to the Eternal Law; for, while the Eternal Law exists in the
mind of God, underived from any other law and is regulative of all
created things, the Natural Law exists in the mind of man, as a
derivation and image of the Eternal Law and a rule for man's acts only.
(b) It is superior to Positive Law, for all Positive Law is a deduction
from or a determination of Natural Law.

297. Division.--Since Natural Law is the reflection of the eternal plan
of Divine Wisdom in the reason of man, we cannot distinguish different
species of it according to difference of lawgivers or subjects. The
objects regulated are, however, different; and hence we may distinguish
various precepts of Natural Law.

(a) According to the difference of persons to whom natural duties are
owed, there are natural laws concerning God (e.g., that God must be
honored), natural laws concerning self (e.g., that one must not commit
suicide), and natural laws concerning the neighbor (e.g., that
injustice must not be done).

(b) According to the difference of natural inclinations in man, there
are, first, natural laws common to him with all beings (e.g., the law
of self-preservation, and hence it is a natural duty of man to take
sleep, food, drink, remedies, etc., as necessary for life); secondly,
natural laws common to him with all sentient beings or animals (e.g.,
the law of preservation of the species, and hence it is a natural duty
of man to rear and provide for his children); thirdly, natural laws
proper to man as a rational being (e.g., the laws that he should
cultivate his powers of mind and will, and hence it is a natural duty
of man to further religion and education, and to organize into
societies and to respect the rights of others).

298. According to their necessity for the primary or the secondary end
of a natural inclination, the laws of nature are divided into primary
and secondary. (a) The primary end of a natural inclination is the
conservation of a natural good; and so it is a primary law of nature
that man should take the food, drink, sleep and exercise necessary for
life, and that he should avoid poison or other things that cause death.
(b) The secondary end of a natural inclination is the betterment of a
natural good, or its easier conservation; thus, it is a secondary law
of nature that man should use those kinds of food or drink that promote
his health, that he should be careful about his diet, practise
moderation, etc.

299. Primary and secondary laws of nature are also explained as
follows: (a) a primary law is one that expresses the principal purpose
of a natural inclination (e.g., social good, that is, the begetting and
rearing of children, is the primary law of the married state); (b) the
secondary law is one that expresses a less important purpose of a
natural inclination. For example, individual good (i.e., companionship,
mutual assistance, the practice of virtue and freedom from temptation)
is the secondary purpose to be promoted in the married state.

300. Precepts of the Natural Law may be divided also on account of the
different relations they have to one another or to our knowledge.

(a) According to the priority they have among themselves, the laws of
nature are divided into the first principle and the secondary
principles. The first principle, which is general, which depends on no
other, and which is the root of all the others, is: "Good must be done,
evil omitted." The secondary principles are particular, and they apply
this general principle to the natural inclinations of man mentioned
above, which reason indicates as ends of action--i.e., as goods to be

(b) According to the priority they have with respect to our knowledge
of them, the laws of nature are divided, first, into axiomatic
precepts, which are evident and are granted by all (e.g., that good is
to be done, that one should follow reason, that one should not do to
others what one does not wish done to oneself etc.), and, secondly,
into inferred precepts (e.g., that one should not steal from others, as
one does not wish others to steal from oneself).

301. The inferred precepts are also of two kinds, namely, general and
particular. (a) The general precepts are those that are deduced
immediately from the axioms as universal conclusions (e.g., the
commandments of the Decalogue, the principle that one should return
what one borrowed). (b) The particular precepts are those that are
deduced only remotely from the axioms as conclusions about cases in
which many particular conditions and circumstances are involved (e.g.,
many conclusions about contracts, the conclusion that a loan is to be
paid in some particular way, at this particular time, etc.).

302. According to the invariability or permanence of their
subject-matter, the laws of nature are of two kinds, namely, necessary
and contingent. (a) The necessary laws are those whose matter always
bears the same relation of essential conformity to or difformity from
reason. For example, the command, "Thou shalt not take the name of the
Lord in vain," is necessary, because God remains always worthy of
honor, and there is no conceivable or possible case in which it could
become useful to speak of Him with dishonor. (b) The contingent laws of
nature are those whose matter generally, but not always, bears the same
essential relation to right reason. For example, the command, "Thou
shalt not kill," is contingent, because, though man generally remains
worthy of having his life respected by others, there are cases when it
might be injurious to the common welfare, and hence to natural law,
that an individual be permitted to live, as when he has committed and
been convicted of a capital crime.

303. According to the manner in which they oblige, the laws of nature
are twofold, namely, absolute and relative. (a) Absolute laws are those
that oblige for every case and condition, because the matter with which
they are concerned is intrinsically good or bad in every instance
(e.g., the laws forbidding marriage between parent and child, the law
against polyandry). (b) Relative laws of nature are those that oblige
except in case of a most grave public necessity, because the matter
with which they are concerned is generally and of its very nature
becoming or unbecoming (e.g., the laws forbidding marriage between
brother and sister, the law forbidding polygamy).

304. According to the manner in which the obligation is contracted,
laws of nature are of two kinds, viz., those whose obligatory force
depends entirely on the nature of things (e.g., the law that God must
be honored), and those whose obligatory force depends upon, an act of
the will of man freely undertaking an obligation, which the nature of
things then demands that he fulfill (e.g., the laws that those who have
made vows, oaths, contracts, etc., should live up to that which they
have freely promised).

305. Properties.--Since the Natural Law is the reflection of God's
Eternal Law impressed on the rational nature of man, it has the
following properties: (a) it is both declarative and imperative; being
immanent in man, it declares to him his duty; being transcendent in its
origin, it speaks with the voice of authority; (b) it is universal, or
for all, for it declares the necessities of nature, which are the same
in all men; (c) it is unchangeable, that is, it admits of neither
abrogation, nor dispensation, nor emendatory interpretation, for the
essences of things, on which it is based, do not change; (d) it is
recognizable and indelible, that is, it cannot fail to be known and
cannot be forgotten by mankind, for it is promulgated through the light
of reason given to man.

306. The Natural Law is of universal obligation. It is in force in all
places, at all times, and for all persons. (a) Thus, those who have not
the use of reason, such as infants and the insane, are subject to the
Natural Law on account of their human nature which is injured by any
transgression of its inclinations. Their ignorance, of course, excuses
them from formal sin (see 24 sqq., 97 sqq.). Example: It is sinful to
induce or permit children to blaspheme or become intoxicated, not only
because of scandal or of harm done to them, but also because such
things are necessarily repugnant to their dignity as human beings. (b)
those who have the use of reason are subject to the Natural Law, and
their transgressions are imputable as formal sins and incur the debt of

307. The Natural Law is unchangeable, not as regards additions, but as
regards subtractions. (a) Additions may be made to the Natural Law,
for, in many points not determined by it, it is well that supplementary
regulations be made to provide for particular situations. These
additions, made by Positive Law, divine and human, are amplifications
rather than changes, for they must not be out of harmony with Natural
Law. (b) Subtractions may not be made from the Natural Law--that is,
there can be no exception when it declares that a certain thing must
always be observed, and there can be no abrogation when it declares
that a certain thing must be observed usually.

308. From the foregoing it follows that no precept of the Natural Law
can be abrogated--that is, repealed and deprived of all force, so that
what was today a precept of nature should no longer be such tomorrow;
for the necessities of nature on which the Natural Law is based do not

309. As to the question whether any precepts of the Natural Law may be
dispensed or not, distinction must be made between two kinds of

(a) A dispensation in the strict sense is granted when a legislator
relaxes for a particular case the obligation of a law, although the
subject-matter of the law still remains. Example: Titus is in the class
of those who are bound by the law of fast, but he is exempted by
competent authority from the obligation of the law.

(b) A dispensation in the wide sense is granted when the subject-matter
of the law is taken away by the legislator himself or by another, so
that it ceases to be comprehended under the law, although the
obligation of the law still remains. Example: Balbus owed money to
Caius, but, as Caius forgave him the debt, he is no longer in the class
of those who are bound by law as debtors to Caius; he is not exempted,
however, from the obligation of the general law that one must pay one's

310. There are various opinions as to the possibility of a dispensation
from the Natural Law granted by God, but the following doctrine seems
the most probable.

(a) God Himself cannot dispense in any way from those precepts whose
matter is necessary (see 302), such as axiomatic precepts (viz., those
that prohibit malice and those that command duties to be fulfilled at a
proper time and place). For all the subject-matter of these precepts is
intrinsically either consonant with or dissonant from right reason.
Example: God could not by decree abolish the Ten Commandments, for, as
long as God is God, He must remain worthy of worship, praise and love;
and, as long as man is man, it must be against his rational nature to
murder, steal, lie. etc.

(b) God cannot grant a dispensation in the strict sense from those
precepts of the Natural Law whose matter is contingent, such as the
precepts against the taking of human life, against taking possessions
from others against their will, etc. For, as long as the subject-matter
of these precepts remains what it is supposed to be by the law,
transgression of them is necessarily opposed to reason. Example: God
cannot command the killing of a person who has the right to life, nor
the taking of property that rightly belongs to another.

(c) God can grant a dispensation in the wide sense from contingent
precepts of the Natural Law--that is, He can make a change as regards
the subject-matter, so that it no longer falls under the law. Thus,
since God is the supreme Lord of life and property, He can without
injury to human rights command that a person be put to death or
deprived of his property by another. These acts would not constitute
murder (i.e., unjust homicide) or stealing (i.e., unlawful taking); for
God has a higher claim on life and possessions than the immediate
owners have. Examples: The command to Abraham to kill his son was not a
dispensation from the law against murder any more than the sending of
death to the first-born of Egypt was the commission of murder by God.
The command given the Israelites to carry away with them the goods of
the Egyptians was not a dispensation from the law against theft, any
more than the destruction of the fruits of the Egyptians by plagues was
the commission of theft by God.

311. Is God able to make a decree which sets up a most grave public
necessity opposed to the observance of a law of nature?

(a) If there is question of absolute laws (see 303), this cannot be
done, for God cannot deny Himself by making a disposition contrary to
His Eternal Law. Example: We do not read that God ever sanctioned
polyandry or marriage between parent and child, and it seems that He
could never permit such things as lawful.

(b) If there is question of relative laws (see 303), the decree in
question can be made by God; for the unbecomingness of that which is
forbidden by a relative law passes away in the face of a great need.
Example: Since God desired the propagation of the human race from one
man and one woman, marriage between brothers and sisters was not
against the Natural Law at the beginning. Since God desired the speedy
multiplication of the chosen people after the patriarchal era, polygamy
was not repugnant to nature among the Jews of that period.

312. Is God able to remove a natural obligation in a case of private
necessity, that is, when the fulfillment would be harmful to an

(a) Natural obligations that do not depend upon any free consent of the
will given to them (see 304) cannot be removed except by a dispensation
widely so-called and when their matter is contingent (as explained in
309-310). Examples: God could not dispense an individual from the duty
of confessing Him in order to escape death, for the subject-matter of
the law here is necessary. God, could dispense an individual from the
obligation of not taking the property of another, for God is the
principal owner of all things, including those possessed by others.

(b) Natural obligations that depend upon the act or deed of human
beings consenting to obligation (see 304) can be removed. For since
human beings cannot know all the circumstances existent, or all the
conditions that will arise, it can happen that a thing agreed to or
promised is only seemingly good, or will change from good to bad, so
that while the promise or agreement made is in itself good and
naturally obligatory, its fulfillment would work harm and evil, or be
useless, or would prevent the accomplishment of a greater good. It is
reasonable, therefore, that God should release from obligation here,
thus changing the subject-matter of the law, so that it is no longer
comprehended under the law (see 309-310). Example: Titus vows or swears
that he will give a certain alms or make a certain pilgrimage; but,
when the time for fulfillment arrives, his circumstances have so
changed that it would not be advisable for him to keep the promise
made. The Church, acting in the name of God, can declare that the
subject-matter of this promise has become harmful and is not longer
suitable, and hence that the obligation has ceased.

313. Human Authority and Modification of the Natural Law.

(a) Additions to the Natural Law may be made, not only by positive laws
of God, but also by human laws of Church or State, through the
introduction of that which Natural Law permits, or the determination or
confirmation of that which Natural Law contains implicitly or
explicitly. Examples: Division of property rights introduced by the law
of nations; conditions for valid contracts determined by particular
codes; the laws against theft and murder confirmed by definite
penalties prescribed for those crimes.

(b) Subtractions from Natural Law cannot be made by any human
authority, for God has not delegated His power of dispensing which He
has as supreme owner of all things. Examples: No human authority could
authorize a father to sacrifice his innocent son, nor permit a servant
to carry away the effects that belong to his employer.

314. Apparent Cases of Dispensation from Natural Law made by Human
Authority. (a) The Church frees from the obligation of vows, contracts
and promissory oaths, from impediments to marriage, from espousals,
etc. In so doing, however, she does not dispense from the Natural Law
that vows, contracts, etc., should be fulfilled, but only declares in
the name of God that the subject-matter of an obligation contracted by
act of man's will has become unsuitable for vow, contract, etc., and
hence is no longer comprehended under the law.

(b) Societies or private individuals can free from the obligation of
paying or returning to them what they have a right to, as when a
creditor forgives a debt, or an owner permits a thief to keep what he
stole. In so doing, however, they do not dispense from the law of
nature that one should pay one's debts and not keep ill-gotten goods;
they only change the quality of the things in question so that they
cease to be due another or ill-gotten, and hence no longer fall under
the law. This differs, too, from the dispensation that God can grant;
for He can transfer rights without the consent of the immediate owner
(see 310).

315. Interpretation--that is, explanation of the law which indicates
whether or not it obliges in a particular case--may be applied to the
Natural Law as follows:

(a) Interpretation which explains the intention the lawgiver had in
making the law and the sense he gave to the words of the law (verbal
interpretation), may be made when either a law itself is not entirely
clear, or some person is not clever enough to see its meaning. Example:
The commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," needs to be interpreted, for it
does not forbid every kind of killing.

(b) Interpretation which explains the intention a lawgiver would have
had, had he foreseen a particular case in which his law would be
harmful, and which therefore sets the will of the lawgiver against the
words of the law (emendatory interpretation, _epieikeia_), may not be
applied to the Natural Law; for God, unlike human legislators, foresees
things not only in general, but also in particular, and hence there is
no room for correction or benign interpretation of natural laws.
Example: Titus, who was a chronic invalid, committed suicide in order
that his family might be freed from distress. He argued that the Fifth
Commandment did not foresee the difficulties of earning a living under
modern conditions, and that his sacrifice would be pleasing to God.
Titus did not reason well, for suicide is forbidden for motives that
apply universally (e.g., that society, and especially one's family, are
injured by the act of suicide).

316. Verbal interpretation of the Natural Law is made as follows: (a)
by private authority--that is, by those who are competent, on account
of learning and prudence, to understand the meaning of the law, such as
moral theologians; (b) by public authority--that is, by those who are
appointed to rule, with the prerogative of declaring the meaning of the
Natural Law. The Pope, since he must feed the flock of Christ, is
divinely constituted to interpret Natural Law, and does so
authentically and infallibly. Thus, the Church declares that certain
matrimonial impediments are natural, and therefore incapable of being

On the competence of the Church to give authoritative interpretations
of the natural law in the field of morals, Pius XII has spoken clearly
and forcefully: ". . . it must openly and firmly be held that the power
of the Church has never been limited to the boundaries of strictly
religious matters' as they are called; but the whole content of the
natural law, its institution, interpretation and application are within
its power insofar as its moral element is concerned. For the
observation of the natural law, by the ordination of God, is the way by
which man must strive to attain his supernatural end. On the road to
this supernatural end. it is the Church that is his leader and guide.
This is the way the Apostles acted, and from the earliest times the
Church held to this way of acting as it does today--and not in the
manner of a private leader and counselor, but from the command and
authority of God" (AAS 46 [1954] 671-672).

317. From the foregoing it follows that the Natural Law is so
unchangeable that it cannot be abrogated or properly dispensed, or
given an emendatory interpretation. But, though the law itself remains,
there are cases in which non-observance of it is excused from guilt.
These cases can be reduced to physical and moral impossibility.

(a) In cases of physical impossibility (i.e., when the powers requisite
for observance are wanting), one is manifestly excused; for law is
reasonable, and it is not reasonable to require impossibilities.
Examples: Infants are not guilty of sin against the Natural Law, when
they do not pray; for they lack the use of reason, which is presupposed
by the notion of prayer. He who is unable to work is not obliged to
earn support for relatives.

(b) In cases of moral impossibility (i.e., when a law cannot be kept
without the infringement of a higher law or the loss of a higher good),
one is also excused; for it is unreasonable to prefer the less to the
more important. Example: Titus lends a revolver to Balbus. Later he
asks that it be returned to him, as he wishes to kill himself. Now,
property is less valuable than life, and hence Balbus is unable in this
case to observe the law which requires that things borrowed must be

318. Moral impossibility is also defined as the inability to observe
the law without serious injury or loss to oneself or a third party.
Serious injuries are such as deprive some one of great goods, such as
the use of reason, life, knowledge, friendship, health, reputation,
property. Serious losses are such as prevent one from obtaining notable
goods, The following rules indicate when grave inconvenience excuses,
and when it does not excuse, from the guilt arising from the
non-observance of Natural Law:

(a) when the law is negative (i.e., prohibitory), no inconvenience
excuses from sin; for that which is forbidden by the Natural Law is
always morally evil, and hence more to be shunned than even the
greatest physical evil, or death. Example: One is obliged, under grave
or light sin, as the case may be, to forfeit all temporal goods rather
than blaspheme, murder, lie, etc.;

(b) when the law is affirmative (or mandatory), an inconvenience which,
all things considered, is really and relatively grave, excuses from
sin; for that which is commanded by the Natural Law is not always
morally obligatory, but only at the right time and in the right
circumstances (see 371), and hence its omission is not always morally
evil. Examples: Sempronius vowed that he would go on foot to a place of
pilgrimage, but when the day came he had a sprained ankle that would be
badly injured if he walked. Caius received a jewel stolen from Balbus
and promised that he would return it at once to the owner, but he finds
that he cannot do so now without danger, either of the arrest of
himself or of the one who took the jewel. Titus sees a person who has
been seriously injured lying by the roadside, but he is tired, and
neither gives help himself nor summons aid. In the first two cases the
inconvenience is grave, and hence Sempronius may ride to the place of
pilgrimage, and Caius may return the jewel to Balbus later; but the
inconvenience of Titus is slight, and does not excuse him from sin.

319. Just as the Natural Law is unchangeable, because based on the
unchangeable Eternal Law instituting the nature of man, so is it easily
knowable, because it is promulgated by the light of reason. Hence: (a)
invincible ignorance of the entire Natural Law is impossible in any
person who has the use of reason; (b) complete forgetfulness of the
Natural Law by mankind is impossible.

320. Those who have not the use of reason, either habitually (as
children and the insane) or actually (as the intoxicated), may be
invincibly ignorant of the Natural Law--for example, they may be unable
to perceive even the difference between right and wrong. As to those
who have the use of reason, they can be ignorant of the Natural Law
only as follows:

(a) they cannot ever be invincibly ignorant of the most general
precepts (such as "good is to be done," "evil is to be avoided"), for
since they know the difference between right and wrong, they must also
perceive that which is contained in the concepts of right and wrong,
viz., that the former is something desirable and which ought to be
done, the latter something undesirable which must not be done;

(b) one cannot, as a rule, be invincibly ignorant of those precepts
that are immediately inferred as necessary conclusions from the most
general precepts (such as "that which was borrowed must be returned"),
for the conclusion follows so easily from the manifest principle that
only in exceptional cases could one be excused for not knowing its

(c) one can, even as a rule, be ignorant of precepts that are inferred
as necessary but very remote conclusions from the most general
precepts, (such as "that which was borrowed must be returned at such a
time or place, or in such a manner or condition"), for this conclusion
is so far removed from its premise, and there are so many factors to be
considered, that considerable knowledge and skill in reasoning are
required for a correct judgment--things in which many people are

321. The Commandments of the Decalogue follow directly from the most
general precepts of the Natural Law, and so to them may be applied what
was said in the previous paragraph. Hence: (a) generally speaking, no
person who has the use of reason can be invincibly ignorant of the
Commandments. St. Paul blames the pagans as inexcusable in various sins
committed against the Decalogue; (b) in special cases, a person who has
the use of reason can be invincibly ignorant of one or more
Commandments; for while the Commandments may be easily inferred by most
persons from the common principles of right and wrong, there are
sometimes involuntary impediments that hinder the right employment of
reason. Thus, children and older persons whose mentality is
undeveloped, although they know the difference between right and wrong,
are frequently unable to draw the conclusion that follows from it
(e.g., that one should not tell lies).

322. The Commandments regarding which invincible ignorance may most
easily exist are: (a) those that deal with merely internal acts, for
the malice of violating them is less apparent. Hence, many theologians
admit that even among Christians the wickedness of sinful thoughts and
desires may be inculpably unknown, at least when the wickedness of the
corresponding external acts is also not known; (b) those that deal with
the control of sensuality, for the impulse to inordinate acts is at
times most vehement. Unde theologi sunt qui affirmant malitiam
peccatorum externorum contra sextum invincibiliter ignorari posse, non
solum apud infideles, sed etiam apud Christianos, ita quod ab
adolescentibus facile ad tempus ignorari possit malitia mollitiei.

323. If a Commandment be applied to some particular case in which there
are many circumstances to be considered, or some reason that appears to
change the subject-matter of the law, even adults who have the perfect
use of reason may be invincibly ignorant; for in such instances we are
considering, not an immediate, but a remote conclusion from the general
principles of Natural Law.

(a) If the case is difficult relatively (i.e., in view of the training
or lack of education of the person studying it), there can be
invincible ignorance, at least for a time. Examples: Jepthe, according
to St. Jerome, appears to have been invincibly ignorant that it was not
lawful for him to slay his daughter. Being a soldier and living in a
rude age, he perhaps did not appreciate the sacredness of human life.
Unlettered persons might conceivably think in good faith that it is not
wrong to commit perjury in order to help one in danger, to steal in
order to pay debts, to think evil if there is no intention to fulfill
it, to do what the majority do or what is tolerated, etc.

(b) If the case is difficult absolutely (i.e., in view of the matter
itself, which is complicated and obscure), there can be invincible
ignorance, even for a long time. Thus, it is so difficult to settle
many problems pertaining to justice (i.e., to the application of the
Seventh Commandment) that we find professional theologians who take
opposite sides, or admit that, speculatively speaking, they do not know
where the truth lies.

324. The Natural Law can never be erased from the hearts of men. (a) In
abnormal circumstances only, as when the general power of reasoning has
been weakened or lost, can the Natural Law be forgotten. Thus, to a
degenerate who becomes violently insane murder and other crimes may
appear as good acts. But no community could govern itself by the
standards of madmen and long survive. (b) In normal circumstances
(i.e., as long as the general power of reasoning remains unimpaired),
the Natural Law cannot be forgotten, as far as its general principles
or immediate conclusions are concerned, although it may be overlooked
or lost sight of when it is applied to particular cases, or when remote
conclusions are deduced from it.

325. As long, therefore, as a body of men remain sane, even though they
be uncivilized or addicted to crime, they cannot become oblivious of
the Natural Law. (a) The general principles ("good is to be done,"
"evil is to be avoided") cannot vanish from the mind, although, in
particular affairs, anger, pleasure, or some other passion may prevent
men from thinking about them. Thus, when the mob spirit takes hold of a
crowd, it becomes intent only on violence or revenge, and gives no
thought to conscience. (b) The secondary precepts, such as those
contained in the Decalogue, cannot be obliterated from the mind,
although in applying them to concrete situations a people may go astray.

There are many examples of laws, both ancient and modern, which
permitted or commanded, for particular cases, things contrary to the
current application of natural precepts. Thus, the Spartans and the
Romans ordered the murder of infants who were weakly and of slaves
whose master had been killed. Some ancient races encouraged robberies
committed beyond the boundaries of the states, and savage tribes have
been found who had the practice of putting to death parents who were
aged or infirm.

326. The causes of wrong applications of the Natural Law are the

(a) Some causes are involuntary. Thus, the correct application may be
difficult, as when more than one moral principle has to be considered
and applied; or, if the case is not difficult, the person who makes the
application may be mentally undeveloped, or his mind may be blinded on
account of his bad education or environment. Examples: The races who
saw no infamy in robbery committed against their neighbors, lived in a
wild age when such acts of violence seemed necessary as measures of
self-protection. The savage killed his aged parents, because to his
untutored mind this seemed an act of mercy.

(b) Some causes are voluntary, such as neglect of the truth, vicious
habits, etc. Examples: St. Paul blames the pagans for their idolatry,
because they had darkened their own minds about God. Pirates and
bandits who came to regard violence as necessary for their own defense
were responsible for their state of mind, inasmuch as they had chosen a
life of crime.

327. Transgression of Natural Law, therefore, is not imputable as
formal sin if it is not voluntary. Hence: (a) lack of knowledge
excuses, when ignorance is involuntary (e.g., those who have not the
use of reason, as infants and the unconscious; children and others
mentally undeveloped who cannot grasp the meaning of some precept;
educated persons who are unable to get a right solution of some knotty
problem of morals, etc.); (b) lack of consent excuses in whole or in
part (as when one acts through fear).


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 98-108.)

328. Meaning.--The Positive Divine Law is the law added by God to the
Natural Law, in order to direct the actions of man to his supernatural
End, to assist him to a better observance of the Natural Law, and to
perfect that which is wanting in human law.

(a) The Last End of man is not natural, but supernatural (see 20), and
hence it was necessary that, in addition to the precepts which guide
man towards his natural beatitude, there should be added precepts that
will guide him towards his supernatural beatitude: "The Law of the Lord
gives wisdom to little ones" (Ps. xviii. 8).

(b) The light of natural reason was sufficient to instruct man in the
Natural Law, but through sin that light had become obscured, with the
result that evil customs set in, and very many were at a loss how to
apply the Natural Law, or applied it wrongly. Hence, it was most
suitable that the Natural Law should be summed up in brief commandments
and given externally by the authority of God. This was done through the
Decalogue, which is a part of the Positive Divine Law of both the
Mosaic and the Christian dispensations: "The testimony of the Lord is
faithful" (Ps. xviii. 8).

(c) Human laws are the product of fallible human judgment; they can
direct only such acts as are external, and they are unable to forbid or
punish many evil deeds. Hence, it was necessary that there should be
positive divine laws to supply for what is wanting in human law: "The
law of the Lord is unspotted, converting souls" (Ps. xviii. 8).

329. The Positive Divine Law differs from the Natural Law as to
subject-matter, permanence, and manner of promulgation.

(a) The precepts of the Natural Law are necessary, since they follow as
necessary consequences from the nature of man, the precepts of the
Positive Law of God, excluding those that are external promulgations of
the Natural Law, are not necessary, since they follow from the free
decree of God raising man to that which is above his nature.

(b) The precepts of the Natural Law are unchangeable, since the nature
of man always remains the same. Of the precepts of the Positive Law of
God some were changed, because given only for a time (such as the
ceremonial laws of Judaism); others, absolutely speaking, could be
changed, because not necessarily connected with the end God has in view
(e.g., the laws concerning Sacraments).

(c) The precepts of both kinds of law are immediately from God; but the
Natural Law is promulgated only in a general way, through the light of
reason given to man along with his nature, while the Positive Law of
God is proclaimed by special commands (e.g., "thou shalt not steal").

330. The Positive Divine Law contains two kinds of precepts, viz.,
natural and supernatural commandments. (a) The natural precepts were
given in order to recall to the minds of men the laws knowable through
reason which had become obscured through passion, custom or example.
The Commandments given to Moses on the tablets of stone renewed the
natural precepts which God had written through reason on the hearts of
men. (b) The supernatural precepts were given in order to point out to
men the duties their supernatural destiny imposed. Example: The
precepts of faith, hope, charity.

331. Division.--There are four historical states of man with reference
to his Last End, and to each of these correspond positive divine laws.

(a) The state of Original Innocence is that which existed in Paradise
before the Fall. Man had been raised to the supernatural state, and
hence he was obliged to the supernatural acts of faith, hope, charity,
etc.; he was subject to God, both as to body and soul, and hence he was
obliged to offer some kind of external sacrifice; he was sanctified
immediately by God, and hence was not bound to the use of any
sacraments; but he was still in a state of probation, and was subject
to various special regulations, such as the commands to avoid the fruit
of a certain tree, to labor in Eden, etc.

(b) The state of the Law of Nature is that which existed from the Fall
to the giving of the written law through Moses. It is called the state
of the Law of Nature, not in the sense that there were no supernatural
precepts then in force, but in the sense that there were as yet no
written precepts. In that period man knew the Natural Law, not from
commandments written on tablets of stone, but from the law of reason
inscribed in his heart; he knew the supernatural precepts, not from
scriptures given him by God, but from tradition or special divine
inspiration. In addition to the inner acts of supernatural worship and
faith in the Messiah to come and the outer sacrifices, there were
during this state certain rites of purification, or sacraments, by
which fallen man was purified from sin. A special precept of the
patriarchial times was the prohibition made to Noe against the eating
of flesh with blood in it.

(c) The state of the Mosaic Law is that which existed from the giving
of the law on Sinai until the giving of the New Testament law by Christ.

(d) The state of the Christian Law, or of the New Law, is that which
began with Christ and the Apostles and will continue till the end of
the world.

332. The Mosaic Law.--This was the special law of God to the Jews, the
people chosen by God as the race from which the Saviour of the world
was to come. It has two periods: the period of preparation and the
period of the Law.

(a)The period of preparation for the Law began with the Promise or
Covenant given to Abraham. A law is not given except to a people (see
285), and, as the peoples of the world at that time had returned to the
general corruption that reigned before the Deluge, God chose Abraham to
be the father of a new nation in which true religion should be
preserved until the Redeemer of the world had come. The rite of
circumcision was ordered as a mark of the covenant and a sacrament of

(b) The period of the Law began with the promulgation of the Decalogue
on Sinai. The descendants of Abraham had grown into a nation and had
been freed from slavery, and they were thus ready to receive a special
law. Their history thereafter shows how God trained them according to
the pattern of the Mosaic Law and prepared them for the providential
mission, which, through the Messiah, should be theirs, of giving to the
world the perfect and universal Law of the Gospel.

333. The Excellence of the Mosaic Law.--(a) The Law was good (Rom, vii.
12): it commanded what was according to reason and forbade what was
opposed to reason; it had God for its Author and prepared man for the
Law of Christ. (b) The Law was imperfect (Heb., vii. 19); it was given
for a time when men were spiritually but children and not ready as yet
for the teaching and morality of the Gospel; it forbade sin and
provided punishments, but the necessary helps for observing it came
only from faith in Christ, the Author of the New Law.

334. The Subjects of the Mosaic Law.--(a) The Jewish people were bound
by the Mosaic Law. God had chosen Abraham by gratuitous election to be
the forefather of the Messiah, and it was by gratuitous election that
He gave the Jews a Law which would lend them a special holiness
befitting the promises made their race. The Jews, therefore, were bound
to more things than other nations, as being the Chosen People; just as
clerics are bound to more things than the laity, as being the ministers
of God.

(b) The Gentiles were not bound by the laws peculiar to the Mosaic
Code, but only by the common precepts, natural and supernatural, that
were in force in the state of the Law of Nature. But it was permitted
to Gentiles to become proselytes, that by observing Mosaic rites they
might more easily and more perfectly work out their salvation.

335. The Duration of the Mosaic Law.--(a) The Law began when experience
had proved that knowledge is not sufficient to make man virtuous, that
is, at a time when, in spite of the Natural Law, the peoples were
turning to polytheism and vice: "The Law was given on account of
transgression" (Gal, iii. 19).

(b) The Law ended when experience had shown that external observance is
not sufficient for holiness, that is, at the time when Judaism was
degenerating into formalism, putting the letter before the spirit of
the Law: "What the Law could not do, God sending His own Son, hath
condemned sin in the flesh, that the justification of the Law might be
fulfilled in us" (Rom., viii. 3, 4).

336. Deuteronomy, vi. 1, describes the Mosaic Law as precepts,
ceremonies and judgments; and the commandments of the Old Testament can
be classified according to this threefold division. (a) The moral
precepts defined the duties to God and man that arise from the dictates
of reason and the Natural Law; (b) the ceremonial prescriptions were
determinations of the religious duties to God contained in the moral
law, and rules concerning the performance of worship based on the
positive ordinance of God; (c) the judgments were determinations of
social duties contained in the moral law; they were the civil or
political code of the theocratic nation which had its force from the
positive ordinance of God.

337. The moral precepts are contained in the Decalogue, which is a sum
of the whole Natural Law, inasmuch as the general principles of the
Natural Law are implicit therein in their immediate conclusions, while
the remote conclusions are virtually found in the Commandments as in
their principles (see 301).

338. The Decalogue expresses man's duties: (a) towards God, viz.,
loyalty (First Commandment), reverence (Second), service (Third)--all
of which are Laws of the First Table; (b) towards parents (Fourth), and
all fellow-men, viz., that no injustice be done them by sins of deed
(Fifth, Sixth, Seventh), of mouth (Eighth), or of heart (Ninth,
Tenth)--all of which are Laws of the Second Table.

339. The further moral precepts which were added after the giving of
the Decalogue can all be reduced to one or the other of the Ten
Commandments. Examples: The prohibition against fortune-telling belongs
to the First; the prohibition against perjury and false teaching, to
the Second; the commandment to honor the aged, to the Fourth; the
prohibition against detraction, to the Eighth.

340. The ceremonial laws, which prescribed the manner of performing the
divine worship or of acting as befitted the Chosen People, and which
prefigured the worship and people of the New Testament, were numerous,
in order that the Jews might be more easily preserved from pagan rites
and customs. The ceremonies they regulated were of four kinds: (a) the
sacrifices through which God was worshipped and through which the
sacrifice of Christ was prefigured (e.g., the holocausts,
peace-offerings, sin-offerings); (b) the sacred times and places,
things and persons set apart in order to give more dignity to divine
worship and to foreshadow more distinctly the good things to come; (c)
the sacraments by which the people or sacred ministers were consecrated
to the worship of God and were made to prefigure Christ (e.g.,
circumcision and the consecration of Levites); (d) the customs which
regulated the details of life so that both priests and people might act
as became their special calling, and might be types and figures of the
Christian people (e.g., the laws about food, dress, etc.).

341. Unlike the moral laws, which had existed before Moses as the
Natural Law and which continue under the Christian dispensation, the
ceremonial laws were temporary. Thus: (a) before Moses other ceremonies
were observed by the patriarchs (e.g., the sacrifice of Abel, the
altars of Abraham and Jacob, the priesthood of Melchisedech, etc.); (b)
after the coming of Christ, distinctions of food, new moons, sabbaths,
and other Mosaic ceremonies were abrogated, since the figures of future
things had been superseded by rites that commemorated benefits that
were present.

342. We may distinguish four periods in the history of the Mosaic
ceremonial law: (a) from Moses until Christ, it was the divinely
ordained manner of worshipping God, and was obligatory for the Chosen
People; (b) at the death of Christ, when the New Testament began, the
Mosaic ceremonial ceased to be obligatory; (c) until the Gospel had
been sufficiently promulgated (i.e., until the destruction of the City
and the Temple of Jerusalem), the ceremonial law was permitted to
Jewish converts, not as prefiguring Christ, but as a form of divine
worship; (d) after the Gospel had been sufficiently proclaimed, it was
no longer lawful to conform to the Mosaic observances.

343. The judgments or judicial laws of the Old Testament were intended;
(a) to regulate the relations of the people of God to one another and
to strangers according to justice and equity, and thus to prepare them
for the coming of the Messiah; (b) to be, consequently, in some sort a
figure of the social constitution of the Christian people.

344. The judicial laws, like the ceremonial, expired with the New
Testament. But since, unlike the ceremonial laws, they were not
appointed directly as prefigurative of Christianity, their provisions,
if not opposed to Christian law, could be used as part of the civil
code of a Christian State.

345. There were four kinds of judicial precepts:

(a) those concerning rulers. The government was monarchical and
aristocratic, as being administered by Moses and his successors with
the assistance of a body of elders; but it was also democratic,
inasmuch as the princes were chosen from the people and by the people;

(b) those concerning citizens. Excellent laws concerning sales,
contracts, property, and the administration of justice, are laid down
in the Pentateuch;

(c) those concerning foreigners. The relationship of the Jews to other
nations, whether in peace or in war, was regulated by wise and humane

(d) those concerning families. The rights and duties of husband and
wife, parent and child, master and servant, were carefully and
considerately provided for.

346. The Law of the New Testament.--This is the special law given by
God through Christ to the whole world, and which endures till the end
of time. Its character will be understood most readily from a
comparison of it with the Law of the Old Testament.

(a) In both Testaments grace and the Holy Spirit are given through
faith in Christ (the internal law), and doctrines, commandments and
ceremonies are prescribed (the external law). But, whereas the Old
Testament is principally a law of works, the New Testament is
principally a law of faith (Rom., iii, 27); the former is concerned
mostly with the external conduct, the latter regulates, not only
actions, but also the internal movements of the soul, of which faith is
the first.

(b) In both Testaments men are justified and saved through faith and
works (Heb, xi., 39; Rom., i. 16), and not through the external written
law or the letter. But it is only through Christ, the author of the New
Law, that men are enabled to perform what the law requires: "The law
was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John, i. 17).

347. Comparison of the Two Testaments from Other Viewpoints.--(a) The
aim of both Laws is to secure obedience to God and holiness for man.
But the New Testament, since given to those who were better prepared
and more perfect, unveils more clearly the mysteries of faith, enjoins
more perfect works, and supplements the Commandments with counsels of
perfection (cfr. the Sermon on the Mount).

(b) Both Laws make use of threats, promises and persuasion in order to
move men to obedience. But, as the Old Law was for those who were
spiritually but children, it dwells especially on the punishments to be
meted out to transgressors and the external rewards that will be given
to the obedient (the law of fear); whereas the New Law, being for those
who are spiritually mature, holds out as inducements chiefly the love
of virtue and rewards that are internal and spiritual (the law of love).

(c) The author of both laws is God. But, while the Old Law was
announced through God's servants as the preparatory dispensation, the
New Law was proclaimed by the Son of God Himself as the final economy
of human salvation: "God, who at sundry times spoke in times past to
the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days hath spoken to
us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things" (Heb, ii. 1).

348. Differences in the Precepts of the Two Laws.--(a) There is no
opposition between the commandments of the two Laws; for the ceremonial
and judicial precepts of the Old Law, which contained figure and
prophecy, are fulfilled in the precepts of Christ, while the moral laws
of the Old Testament are confirmed and perfected by the moral laws of
Christ: "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt., v. 17).

(b) There is no substantial difference between the faith and works of
the two Testaments. For, that which is now believed explicitly and
clearly, was believed implicitly and in figure in the Old Testament,
and the greater things that now are commanded were contained germinally
in the precepts of the Old Law.

349. The Old and the New Law Compared as to Difficulty.--(a) If we
consider the difficulty that arises from the fulfillment of external
works, the Old Law was much more difficult. For while the Law of Moses
imposed numerous and complicated ceremonies and observances, the Law of
Christ commands but few and simple rites. Of the Old Law St. Peter says
that it was a yoke, "which neither our fathers nor we have been able to
bear" (Acts, xv. 10)--that is, it was extremely burdensome; but of His
own Law Christ says: "My yoke is sweet, and My burden light" (Matt, xi.
30). Even the additions made by Christ to the Old Law (e.g., the
prohibition against divorce) really facilitate that which the Old Law
itself intended--viz., the perfection of man. Hence, the Old Law is the
law of servitude; the New Law, the law of liberty.

(b) If we consider the difficulty that arises from internal works, or
the dispositions and motives with which precepts are to be fulfilled,
the New Law is more difficult; for it inculcates a loftier piety and
gives more attention to the spirit with which God is to be worshipped.
But, since love is the all-inclusive commandment of Christ, and since
gladness and fervor are easy to the lover, the commandments of Christ
"are not heavy" (I John, v. 3).

350. The External Works Commended by Christ.--(a) Since the New Law is
the law of grace, it commands only those things by which we are brought
to grace, or by means of which we make use of grace already received.
We receive grace only through Christ, and hence there are commandments
regarding the Sacraments; we make right use of grace by faith that
worketh through charity, and hence there are the precepts of the
Decalogue to be kept.

(b) Since the New Law is the law of liberty, it does not determine the
details of the moral law, nor prescribe minutely how we must worship
God and observe justice to others, as was done in the ceremonial and
judicial laws of the Old Testament. Minor dispositions of this kind
have no necessary relation to internal grace, being morally
indifferent. Hence, Christ left many things free, to be determined
later according to conditions, either by the individual (in personal
matters) or by the spiritual or temporal authority (in matters of
public concern). It is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, however,
that mankind should be oppressed with numerous and burdensome

351. The Internal Works Commanded by Christ.--In the Sermon on the
Mount were given the commandments of the New Law that summarize the
entire duty of the Christian as to his internal acts: "Everyone that
heareth these My words, and doeth them, shall be likened to a wise man
that built his house upon a rock" (Matt., vii. 24). Thus, there are:
(a) internal acts commanded as regards our own wills and purposes (we
must avoid not only external, but also internal sins and the occasions
of sin; we must not only do good, but we must have a good motive, not
placing our end in human applause or riches); (b) internal acts
commanded as regards our neighbor (we must not judge him rashly,
unjustly, presumptuously; nor must we trust him imprudently); (c)
interior dispositions with which we must perform our duties (we must
avoid inordinate cares, imploring and expecting the divine assistance;
but we must also avoid carelessness, having our minds set on the narrow
way, and eschewing seductions).

352. The Teaching of Christ on the Three Classes of Precepts: Moral,
Ceremonial and Judicial.--(a) As regards the moral precepts (i.e., the
Decalogue or Natural Law), not one jot or tittle was to pass away. But
so little was the soul of these precepts then recognized that Christ
gave a new commandment of love, by which His followers were to be
known; and He reduced the whole law to the two commandments of love of
God and love of our neighbor.

(b) As regards the ceremonial precepts (i.e., the forms of Jewish
worship), these were to be superseded. Christ declared the manner in
which God was to be worshipped, namely, in spirit and in truth. He
instituted the Sacrifice of the New Testament, appointed the ritual of
the Sacraments (e.g., of Baptism and the Eucharist), and taught a form
of prayer which was to be used by His disciples. Other things He left
to be determined by the Church.

(c) As regards the judicial precepts (i.e., the civil laws of the
theocratic nation), these ceased to be necessary with the coming of
Christ, whose Kingdom is spiritual and with whom there is no
distinction of Jew or Gentile, since His law is for all. In fact, with
the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, foretold by Christ, both the
Temple worship and the separate national life of Israel came to an end.
In correcting the false interpretations which the Pharisees put upon
various judicial precepts of their law (e.g., in showing them that the
law of retaliation and the law that public enemies should be put to
death did not authorize revenge and hatred), Christ indicated the
spirit that should animate all civil laws, namely, love of justice. He
left it to the wisdom of future lawgivers to apply the rule of justice
to the relations between man and man, nation and nation, as
circumstances would require.

353. The precepts by which Christ established the primacy of the Pope
and the hierarchy may be called judicial. But the details of this
constitution He left the Church to determine.

354. The Duration of the Law of Christ.--(a) The Beginning.--The New
Law was given through the revelation made by Christ and the Holy Ghost
to the Apostles; it was ratified at the Last Supper and in the death of
Christ, when the New Testament was proclaimed and the Old Testament
came to an end; it was promulgated, first at Jerusalem on the day of
Pentecost, and later throughout the world by the preaching of the

(b) The End.--The Law of Christ continues till the end of time; for
this generation--that is, this last period of world history under the
Christian dispensation--shall not end until Christ returns to judge
mankind; "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of
the world" (Matt., xxviii. 20).

355. The Subjects of the Law of Christ.--(a) The Law of Christ is for
all: "Going, therefore, teach ye all nations. teaching them to observe
all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt., xxviii. 19).

(b) The Law of Christ does not oblige all in the same way. Those
outside Christianity are obliged directly by the commands to believe
and to be baptized. Christians are obliged directly by the laws of
faith and works accepted in Baptism.

356. Ignorance of the Law of Christ.-(a) Outsiders may be in invincible
ignorance of the Law of Christ. For many persons through no fault of
their own, in times past or even today, have not heard the Gospel
message: "How shall they believe Him of whom they have not heard?"
(Rom, x. 14).

(b) Christians may be in invincible ignorance of the Law of Christ.
For, just as want of a preacher causes a pagan to be invincibly
ignorant of the necessity of Baptism, so a lack of instruction in
Christian doctrine might leave a baptized person inculpably ignorant
(e.g., of the duty of receiving the Eucharist).

357. Dispensation from the Law of Christ.--(a) Its Possibility.--It
cannot be denied that Christ could have dispensed from the positive
precepts of His law, either directly or through His Church; for those
precepts depend on His will, and, like every other legislator, He can
relax His law or delegate others to do so.

(b) Its Reality.--Some believe that Christ granted dispensations from
His Law (e.g., that He freed the Blessed Virgin and the Apostles from
the duty of receiving Baptism, that he authorized the Apostles to give
Baptism without mentioning the Trinity), but these opinions seem
unlikely and are not well supported. Some also believe that the power
of loosing granted the Church (Matt., xvi. 19) includes the power of
dispensing from the Law of Christ. The contrary, however, seems more
probable. For the power of loosing is certainly limited to such matters
as the good of the Church and of souls requires, and it is more
advantageous for the Church and its members that the laws given by
Christ Himself should be absolutely unchangeable, in order that the
unity of the Church and its dependence on its Founder may be more

On the other hand, the alternate opinion has solid grounds and
arguments, and merits due consideration. Some authors distinguish a
twofold law of Christ; (a) absolute, that which obliges immediately and
of itself independently of any action of man; e.g., the law concerning
the necessity of Baptism or determining bread and wine as the matter of
the Eucharist; (b) hypothetic, which presupposes some human action;
e.g., the law of the indissolubility of matrimony which urges after man
has freely willed to be bound by the laws of matrimony. Similarly, the
binding force of vows presupposes the taking of the vow.

As to the absolute law, no human authority may dispense from it. As
already indicated, the good of the Church, its unity and stability,
seem to demand an unchangeable law. In regard to the hypothetical law,
many of the more modern authors assert that the Holy Pontiff can at
times dispense. The power of loosing implies a power of dispensing in
the Church which has been used in particular cases; e.g., _ratum et non
consummatum_ matrimony. Moreover, the power to dispense seems extremely
useful and almost necessary for the prudent and wise governing of the
Church. For, with a change of circumstances an individual might be
impeded from doing a greater good because of a preceding act of will;
e.g., one might be impeded from embracing the religious life because of
a prior vow to remain in the world to assist in Catholic Action (see
Fanfani, O.P., _Theol. Moral. Manuale_, Vol. I, n. 134).

358. Interpretation of the Law of Christ.-(a) Private interpretation
(_epieikeia_ or equity) is used in extraordinary cases, not foreseen by
the lawgiver, and it declares that a particular case does not fall
under the Law. This kind of interpretation applies only to human laws,
since God foresees things not only universally, but also in particular
(cfr. on Natural Law, 315). (b) Public interpretation of the Law of
Christ is made by the Church, in virtue of the commission: "Teach all
things whatsoever I have commanded" (Matt, xxviii. 20).

359. Public Interpretation of the Law of Christ--(a) The Church is able
to give a declarative interpretation of the Positive Divine Law--that
is, to explain its meaning, to show what cases are comprehended in the
law, what cases are not, when one is obliged, when one is excused, etc.
Example: The Church interprets the doctrine of Christ on the
indissolubility of marriage, explaining when the bond is absolutely
indissoluble, the conditions under which it may sometimes be dissolved,

(b) The Church is able to give determinative interpretation of the
Positive Divine Law--that is, to settle in what manner a law must be
fulfilled. Examples: Christ gave the command that the Eucharist should
be received, but it was the Church that determined when and how often
one must receive Communion to comply with the wishes of Christ. Christ
instituted only generically the essential rite of some Sacraments,
leaving it to the Church to determine the rite more specifically.

360. The Law of Christ and Impossibility.--(a) Impossibility does not
excuse from a law, in which an act is necessary not because it is
prescribed, but is prescribed because it is a necessary means without
which, even if one be not guilty of negligence, salvation cannot be had
(necessity of means). Example: Infants who die without Baptism are not
held guilty of neglecting the Sacraments, but lack of it deprives them
of the supernatural bliss promised by Christ. Only Baptism confers
regeneration, and only the regenerated are capable of the vision of God.

(b) Impossibility can excuse from a law in which an act is necessary
because it is prescribed, and which therefore makes one guilty of sin,
if one willfully neglects it (necessity of precept). Example: An adult
who dies without the Eucharist cannot be saved if he was guilty of
grave negligence; but he can be saved, if it was not his own fault that
he did not receive Holy Communion. The Eucharist increases supernatural
life, but inculpable lack of it does not exclude from that life.

361. Impossibility--or what is called impossibility--does not always
excuse even from those divine laws which have only the necessity of

(a) Physical impossibility is the lack of power to perform an act; for
example, it is physically impossible for a blind man to read. This kind
of impossibility, of course, excuses from guilt and punishment.
Example: Titus is dying and thinks of the command that he should
receive Viaticum. But he is unable to receive Communion without
vomiting. Hence, in his case the impossibility excuses from the divine

(b) Moral impossibility is the inability to perform an act without
serious inconvenience; for example, it is morally impossible for one
who has weak eyes to read small print. This kind of impossibility does
not excuse, if a greater evil will result from the non-observance of
the law than the evil of inconvenience that will result from its
observance. Examples: Eleazer would not eat the meats forbidden by the
law of Moses, preferring to die rather than give public scandal (II
Mach., vii. 18). The command of Christ that pastors minister to their
flocks obliges, even if it involves danger of death, when there is a
great public necessity (as in time of pestilence) or an urgent private
necessity (as when an infant is about to die without Baptism).

362. Moral impossibility excuses from divine laws that have only
necessity of precept, if the inconvenience is serious, even when
compared to the evil of violating the law; for God does not wish
commands freely instituted by His will to oblige more rigorously than
the commands of the Natural Law (see 289, 317). Examples: Christ
excused David for eating the loaves of proposition (which was forbidden
by the law of Moses) on account of urgent necessity. A most grave
external inconvenience excuses from the law of integrity of confession
(see Vol. II).

363. What is the nature of the Church's action in dissolving the bond
of marriages that are not ratified, or not consummated after
ratification (see Vol. II), with reference to Christ's law of
indissolubility? (a) Some see in this an application of other divine
laws that limit the law of indissolubility, and that were enunciated by
Christ Himself in His teaching on the supremacy of faith over other
bonds, the superiority of virginity to marriage, the power of the
Church in loosing, etc. (b) Others see in this an interpretation,
declarative or expansive, of the law of indissolubility. (c) Still
others regard these dissolutions as a removal of the proper matter of
the obligation contracted through the act of the human will (cfr. the
Natural Law, 312). The power of loosing would apply here as in the case
of vows. Some authors call this removal of matter "annulment of act,"
"remission of debt," "permission"; while others call it "dispensation"
(see 314). Those who consider the dissolution of _ratum non
consummatum_ matrimony as "dispensation" list the law of
indissolubility as hypothetical positive law (see 357).

364. Counsels.--In addition to its precepts (which are obligatory), the
New Law contains counsels, which are optional, but which are expressly

365. A counsel is a moral direction by which one who is willing is
advised to prefer a higher to a lower good, in order thereby to tend
more efficaciously towards perfection and to merit a greater reward.

(a) A counsel is not something commanded. Example: Our Lord's direction
to the disciples on their first mission that they should not carry
their sustenance with them was required as a duty that they might learn
to trust in Providence. Hence, it was not a counsel.

(b) A counsel is not everything good that is not commanded. Example:
Marriage is not commanded to all, but it is not a counsel, since the
opposite good, viz., celibacy, is better (I Cor., vii. 38).

366. That which is only counselled as to its actual performance, is
commanded as to its acceptance by the will for a case of necessity.
Example: Our Lord's direction that good be done to personal enemies
does not command that one actually confer favors on them outside of the
case of necessity (this is only counselled), but only that one be so
charitably inclined that one is ready to help even a personal enemy who
is in serious need.

367. The superiority of the counsels may be seen from the attitudes men
take to the goods of this world.

(a) Some are taken up entirely with the things of earth, making
temporal goods the end of life and the standard of action. These do not
keep the Commandments and cannot be saved.

(b) Some use the goods of this world not as ends, but as subordinate to
things that are higher. These keep the Commandments and will be saved;
but their solicitude about temporal concerns lessens the attention they
could give to things of the spirit.

(c) Some renounce entirely the goods of this life, in order to give
themselves as completely as possible to the things of God. These
observe the counsels, and can more readily attain to holiness and
salvation; for, being freed from numerous cares about earthly things,
they can devote themselves more easily and earnestly to things that are

368. The Three Counsels.--There are many counsels given in the Gospels,
but all can be reduced to three, according to the three chief earthly
goods that may be surrendered, and the three kinds of temptation that
come from those goods.

(a) The counsel of poverty requires that one give up entirely external
goods or wealth, from which comes the concupiscence of the eyes: "If
thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and
thou shalt have treasure in heaven" (Matt, Xix. 21).

(b) The counsel of chastity requires that one renounce entirely carnal
goods of pleasure, from which arise the concupiscence of the flesh: "He
that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her
not, doth better" (I Cor., vii. 38).

(c) The counsel of obedience requires that one deny oneself the good of
the soul which is one's own will, from which comes the pride of life:
"Come follow Me" (Matt, xix. 21).

369. The counsels can be followed in two ways. (a) They are followed
completely, when one accepts them as a rule for one's whole life, as is
done by those who embrace the state of perfection in the religious
life, taking by vow the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity
and obedience. (b) They are followed partially when one practises them
in particular instances. Examples: A wealthy man who gives to the poor
when there is no obligation to do so, practises the counsel of poverty
in that case. A person who renounces his own legitimate wishes in some
matter, practises the counsel of obedience in that case, as when he
confers some favor on one who has offended him, or pardons a debt.
Married persons who practise conjugal abstinence for the sake of
religion, follow a counsel of chastity (I Cor., vii. 5).


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, qq. 95-97.)

370. Definition.--Since human perversity often needs a check in
regulations that are not expressly contained in the Natural or in the
Divine Law, other laws must be made by society, drawn from those higher
laws as conclusions or added to them as determinations, in order to
meet special circumstances and necessities.

371. Division of Human Laws.-Human laws are variously divided.

(a) According to the difference of legislators, laws are either
ecclesiastical or civil.

b) According to their mode of derivation from the Natural Law, laws
belong either to the law of nations (_jus gentium_) or to civil law. To
the _jus gentium_ belong those laws which are derived from the Natural
Law as conclusions from premises, e.g., the right to private property
without which men cannot live peacefully in society. To civil law
belongs whatever is derived from Natural Law by way of positive
determination by a legislator; e.g., Natural Law dictates that the
evil-doer be punished; but that the punishment take a particular form,
imprisonment, exile, death, is a determination depending upon the will
of the legislator.

The _jus gentium_ is not international law which derives its force and
sanction from the free will of the legislator. The law of nations is
common to all men and derives its force from the conviction of men that
such a law is demanded for the good of mankind. It is not a secondary
precept of the Natural Law which is derived from the primary precepts
necessarily. Rather it is based upon a contingent set of circumstances;
it does not spring from man's nature absolutely considered, but from
the way in which man acts and reacts in his society.

(c) According to the difference of their objects, laws are either
affirmative (i.e., preceptive) or negative (i.e., prohibitive). An
affirmative law obliges always, but not for every occasion; a negative
law obliges always, and for every occasion. Example: The Third and
Fourth Commandments are always in force, but it is not necessary to
elicit a positive act of compliance at every instant. The other
Commandments, which are negative, are not only in force always, but it
is necessary at every instant to omit what they forbid.

(d) According to the obligation which they impose, laws are either
moral, penal, or moral-penal. Moral laws oblige under pain of sin,
penal laws under pain of punishment, moral-penal laws under pain of

(e) According to their inclusiveness, laws are either personal or
territorial. The former affect the person for whom the law is made, and
oblige him even when he is outside the territory of the lawgiver. The
latter affect the territory, and hence do not oblige a subject when he
is outside the territory affected by the law.

(f) According to their effect, prohibitive laws are either merely
prohibitive or irritant. The former make what is forbidden illegal, the
latter make it also void.

372. Qualities.--The objects or content of human law must be of such a
character: (a) that they do not conflict with the Natural or the Divine
Law; (b) that they be beneficial to the community for which they are

373. Laws fail to be of public benefit in such cases as the following:
(a) if they are made without a broad view of the public good, which has
regard for different classes of people and various interests, and which
provides for the future as well as for the present; (b) if, losing
sight of the fact that the majority are not perfect in virtue, the
lawgivers require so much that the law falls into contempt, and graver
evils result than would have happened otherwise. Hence, it is advisable
that human laws confine their prohibitions to graver misdeeds,
especially those that are harmful to others and to society, and
restrict their commands to such good acts as promote the common weal.
Multiplicity of laws, excessive penalties for minor offenses, cruel and
unusual sanctions, lead to lawlessness.

374. Human laws should not prescribe what is too difficult.

(a) They should not prescribe heroic virtue, unless the common safety
demands it, or a subject has voluntarily obliged himself to it.
Example: Soldiers in war and pastors in time of pestilence must expose
themselves to danger of death; but for ordinary occasions the law
should not oblige one to risk one's life or other great good.

(b) They should not prescribe agreement with the mind of the legislator
or a virtuous performance of what is prescribed, unless the thing
ordered itself demands this. Examples: The law of annual Confession and
of the Easter Communion requires, not only that these Sacraments be
received, but that they be received worthily, for an unworthy
Confession is no Sacrament, and an unworthy Communion does not satisfy
the command of Christ, of which the Church command is but a
determination. On the other hand, the Lenten fast observed by one who
is not in the state of grace is an act good in itself and satisfies the
law. He who hears Mass on a holyday, not knowing that it is a holyday,
satisfies the obligation, though he had no intention of fulfilling it.

375. Obligation of Human Laws.--All human laws that are just, whether
they be ecclesiastical or civil, made by believers in God or
unbelievers, are obligatory in conscience, (a) From the beginning the
Church has made laws and imposed them as obligatory (Acts, xv. 29; I
Cor., vi. 4; I Cor., xi. 5; I Tim., v. 9-12), and has recognized as
obligatory the laws of the State, without regard to the moral or
religious qualifications of the rulers (I Peter, ii. 13-16; Rom., xiii.

(b) Human laws are necessary. The Natural Law does not prescribe
definite penalties, while the Positive Divine Law prescribes only such
as are remote and invisible; and hence, if there were no human laws
holding out the threat of determined and present punishments, the
Divine laws would be contemned. Moreover, since the higher laws are
sometimes unknown, or prescribe no time, place or manner of
accomplishment, or do not command things that would be useful for their
observance, it is necessary that there be laws made by man to secure
the better knowledge and fulfillment of the laws given by God Himself.

376. A human law is unjust in two ways:

(a) if opposed to the rights of God. Examples: The command of Pharaoh
that the Hebrew male children be murdered (Exod., i. 17), the command
of Antiochus that his subjects sacrifice to idols (I Mach., ii. 16-20),
the command of the Sanhedrin that the Apostles should cease to preach
(Acts, v. 29);

(b) if opposed to the rights of man. This happens in three ways: First,
when the purpose of the law is not the common good, as when the
lawgiver seeks only his own profit or glory; secondly, when the maker
of the law has not the requisite authority; thirdly, when the law
itself, although for the common good and made by competent authority,
does not distribute burdens equally or reasonably among the people.
Examples: Achab and Jezabel, in the affair of the vineyard of Naboth,
had in view not the public, but their own private benefit (III Kings,
xvi). The sentence of death pronounced on our Lord by the Sanhedrin was
illegal, because, among other reasons, the body was not assembled
according to law, and hence had no authority to give sentence. The
commands given the Israelites by Pharaoh (Exod., v. 18), and to their
subjects by Oriental despots (I Kings, viii), were unjust, because the
former discriminated against the Israelites, and the latter bore down
too heavily on all the people. The former civil laws that prescribed
the same penalty of hanging for a slight misdemeanor (such as the theft
of a loaf of bread by a boy) as for the capital crimes of piracy or
murder, the Stamp Act of George III, and some modern laws that sentence
to life imprisonment those who have been four times convicted of slight
offenses, are more recent examples of unjust laws.

377. Obedience to unjust laws is not obligatory in the following cases.
(a) If a law is opposed to the rights of God, it is not lawful to do
what that law commands or permits, nor to omit what it forbids.
Examples: If a law permits one to practise polygamy, or commands one to
blaspheme religion, one may not use the permission or obey. If a law
forbids one to give or receive Baptism, it has no force. (b) If a law
is certainly opposed to the rights of man in any of the three ways
mentioned in the previous paragraph (376, b), it does not of itself
oblige in conscience, since it lacks some essential condition of a true
law, and even the consent of the majority or of all does not make it
just. However, it may oblige accidentally, on account of the greater
evils that would follow on disobedience, such as scandal, civil
disturbances, etc. The duty of subjects is to remonstrate against such
a law and to work for its repeal.

378. The obligation of all laws is not the same in kind, or degree. (a)
Moral laws oblige one to do what is commanded or to omit what is
forbidden, as a duty owed in conscience; hence, he who violates a law
of this kind is guilty of moral fault. Penal laws oblige one to follow
what they prescribe, if one would be free from guilt before the law and
not liable in conscience to the penalty prescribed; hence, he who
violates a penal law is guilty of juridical fault, and, if he further
illegally resists the penalty, he becomes guilty also of moral fault.
(b) Moral laws are not all of the same obligatory force, some of them
obliging under grave sin, others under venial sin.

379. The following human laws are recognized as moral laws: (a)
ecclesiastical laws, with few exceptions; (b) civil laws that confirm
the Eternal or Divine Law, or that pertain directly to the common
welfare, such as the laws that determine the duties of public
officials, the rights of inheritance, etc.

380. The following human laws are generally regarded as merely penal:
(a) ecclesiastical laws which expressly state that their observance is
not required under pain of sin (e.g., the statutes of many Religious
Orders); (b) civil laws of minor importance, or which the legislator
imposes as a purely civil duty (e.g., some traffic regulations).

381. Moral laws oblige under grave sin if the two following conditions
are present: (a) if the thing prescribed by the law is of great
importance, because of its nature or circumstances; (b) if the lawgiver
intended to impose a grave obligation.

382. A matter of light moment cannot be made the object of a law that
binds under grave sin, for this would impose an intolerable burden, and
would thus be contrary to the common good. What is unimportant in
itself, however, may become important on account of its purpose or
other circumstance.

383. The intention of the legislator to impose a grave moral obligation
is recognized either: (a) from his own declaration, as when a church
law is commanded under threat of the divine judgment; or (b) from
circumstances that indicate such an intention, such as the gravity of
the subject-matter of the law or the kind of penalty it prescribes, the
general opinion of authorities, or the common practice of the community.

384. By obliging to the observance of what they command and the
avoidance of what they forbid, laws indirectly oblige to what is
necessary for such obedience. (a) Hence, the law obliges one to make
use of the ordinary means for its fulfillment. Examples: He who has not
used ordinary diligence to know the law, sins against the law if he
violates its prescriptions. He who eats meat on a day of abstinence,
because he neglected to provide himself with other food, is guilty of
sin. (b) The law obliges one to use sufficient diligence in removing
impediments to its fulfillment or dangers of its violation. Examples:
The law of hearing Mass on Sunday obliges one not to stay up so late on
Saturday that fulfillment will be impossible. The law of fasting
obliges one to avoid dangerous occasions of its violation.

385. Interpretation.--Though laws are carefully framed as to language,
doubts about their meaning will often arise--in ordinary cases, because
of lack of understanding or changes of conditions, and in extraordinary
cases, because from the circumstances the law seems inapplicable. Hence
the need of explaining the law, which is done in ordinary cases by
interpretation, in extraordinary cases by _epieikeia_ (see 411 sqq.).

386. Interpretation is a genuine explanation of the law, that is, one
that states the meaning of the words of the law according to the
intention the lawgiver had in mind when he chose them. It is of various

(a) According to the author from whom it proceeds, interpretation is
authentic, if it comes from the lawgiver himself or from another
authorized by him; it is usual, if it comes from common usage (i.e.,
from the manner in which the law is customarily observed); it is
doctrinal, if it is made by learned men according to the rules of
correct exegesis,

(b) According to the effect, interpretation is declarative, if it
clears up what was obscure in the law; it is supplementary, if it
extends or limits the law, by adding to or subtracting from the cases
included under it.

(c) According to the manner in which it is made, interpretation is
strict or wide, Strict interpretation gives to a word of law that least
inclusive and most proper signification it bears (e.g., it understands
"son" to stand for son by birth). Wide interpretation gives to a word a
more inclusive and less proper signification (e.g., it understands
"son" to stand for son by birth or by adoption).

387. Those Subject to Law.--Only those are morally obliged to observe
human law who are subjects of the lawgiver and who have the use of
reason. (a) Those who are not subjects in any sense are not bound, for
to obligate by law is an act of authority and jurisdiction; (b) those
who have not reached the age of reason, or who are habitually insane,
are not themselves morally bound, since they are incapable of moral
obligation. Of course, they may be restrained as to acts, and their
rights may be determined.

388. The lawgiver himself, even though not subject, is held to observe
the laws he makes. Thus: (a) if the lawmaking power resides in a
legislative assembly, each legislator is subject to the body and hence
to its laws; (b) if the lawmaking power is vested in an individual, he
is not subject to the coactive force of his own laws, since he cannot
punish himself; but he is subject to their directive force, inasmuch as
the higher law of nature requires that the superior show good example
by observing what he requires of others.

389. Change of Law.--The growth of knowledge and experience, or the
change of social circumstances, requires now and then that human laws
be improved or adapted to new conditions. But, since laws derive a
great part of their influence from custom, they should not be changed
unless the break with custom is compensated for by the urgent necessity
of the new law, by its manifest advantage, or by the evident iniquity
or harmfulness of the old law, In brief, the common good should be the
norm by which to decide whether a law should be retained or changed.

390. Constitutional law, as being fundamental and organic, is more
immutable than ordinary law. (a) If given to a society established
according to the positive ordinance of a superior, it cannot be
abrogated or modified by the legislative authority of that society,
since this would be contrary to the will of the founder. Hence, the
Church has no power to change the fundamental constitution given her by
Christ, who prescribed the religious society as established by Him to
be necessary. (b) If a constitutional law is given to a society which
is perfect and necessary from the law of nature, such constitution can
be modified for extraordinary reasons and in the special ways provided
(e.g., by amendments approved by the people).

391. The Law of Custom.--Custom (i.e., a long-continued practice that
has acquired binding force) is able to establish a new law or to do
away with an old law. For the will of the lawgiver is manifested not
only by words, as happens in the written law, but also and more clearly
by repeated and continued acts, as happens in the case of the unwritten
law of custom. In a democracy it is the consent of the people who
follow the custom as law that imposes the obligation; in a monarchy it
is the consent of the ruler who permits the custom.

392. With reference to their legal effects, there are three kinds of
customs: (a) customs according to the law, which are those that confirm
by use an existing law; in this way custom interprets law (see 386);
(b) customs beside the law, which are those that introduce a new
obligation that is not prescribed by any written law; in this way
custom establishes law; (c) customs contrary to law, which are those
that remove the obligation of a previous law; in this way custom
repeals, at least in part, the law to which it is opposed.

393. Custom has not the power to establish or repeal a law, unless it
possesses the requisites of law itself (see 285). Hence arise the
following conditions:

(a) Since the exercise of the legislative power requires freedom,
customs do not possess legal force unless they have been practised
freely. Hence, a custom that has been established by force does not

(b) Since laws can be made only for perfect societies, customs have not
the force of law, unless they are practised by a perfect society, or by
a majority of its members who are representative. Hence, a custom
observed by a family or by a minority of the voters in a body that has
its own jurisprudence has not the status of law;

(c) Since laws must proceed from competent authority, customs do not
make or unmake law, unless they have the approval of the ruling power.
In a society where the legislative function rests with the people
(e.g., in the ancient democracy of Athens), the fact that they follow a
custom with the purpose of enacting it into law or of using it against
an existing law is sufficient approval. But if the supreme power is not
with the multitude, their customs do not obtain the force of
legislative acts, unless approved by the constituted authority;

(d) Since law needs to be promulgated, a custom, to have the effect of
law, must be practised by public acts through which it becomes known to
the people as a whole.

394. Customs that have the other requisite conditions begin to be
obligatory or derogatory as soon as the approval of competent authority
is had. (a) If the approval is given expressly, the custom has the
force of law at once; (b) if it is given tacitly, inasmuch as the
lawgiver, knowing the custom and being under no restraint, does not
disapprove, the custom has the force of law as soon as tacit consent is
recognized by the learned and prudent; (c) if it is given by the law
itself, which explicitly accepts reasonable customs, the custom has the
force of law when it has lasted for ten years, or other length of time

395. If the superior disapproves of a custom or maintains diplomatic
silence for fear of greater evils, his consent is withheld, and the
custom cannot be deemed as of legal force.

396. There are other conditions necessary that a custom may acquire the
force of law. (a) Since a law is an ordinance knowingly imposed by the
will of the legislator, a custom does not constitute a law if it is
followed through the erroneous conviction that it is already a law, or
if there is nothing to indicate a will to make it obligatory. Signs of
the intention to raise a custom to the dignity of a law are the
punishment of transgressors of the custom, the observance of the custom
even at the cost of great inconvenience, the opinion of the good that
it should be followed, etc. (b) Since a law cannot prescribe except
what is reasonable and for the common good, a practice opposed to the
Natural or Divine Law, or expressly reprobated by written law as an
abuse, or one that is injurious to the welfare of the community, cannot
become unwritten law through custom.

397. There are special conditions in order that a custom may do away
with an existing law. (a) A written law is not repealed unless the
legislator wills to take away its obligation, and hence desuetude or a
custom contrary to law does not abrogate a law unless it manifests a
purpose not to be obligated by what the law prescribes. This it does if
the whole people regard a certain law as a dead letter, or feel that
circumstances or the common welfare require the opposite of what the
law requires, and have no scruple in acting uniformly according to this

(b) A written law is not repealed, if it is immutable, or if a change
would be prejudicial to the common interest; similarly, therefore, a
custom cannot abolish a law, unless this law is one that can be
abrogated by human acts, and that is not essential to the public good.
Hence, customs contrary to the Commandments or to the Law of Christ,
customs that are expressly condemned in Canon Law as corruptions,
customs that encourage lawlessness or afford occasions of sin, can
never do away with a law, no matter how long or by how many they are

398. Those who start a custom contrary to law are sometimes in good
faith, and hence are not guilty of disobedience. (a) It may be that
they are in ignorance of the law, but have the interpretative will not
to be bound by it; (b) it may be that they know the law, but sincerely
think that, on account of conditions, it has ceased of itself.

399. Even when a custom has been started in bad faith, it may continue
through good faith, and so become not a violation, but an abrogation of
the law. Changed conditions may make the law useless or harmful; or the
very fact that it is no longer observed may make it too difficult to

400. Today customs do not so often attain the force of law. Moreover,
so difficult is it to know whether any custom has all the qualities
necessary for establishing, modifying, or abrogating a law that only an
expert is competent to judge in this matter.

401. Dispensation.--Human law has not the immutability of the Divine
Law. Hence, not only may it be changed, but it may also be dispensed.
Dispensation is a relaxation of the positive law made for a particular
case by him who has the competent authority.

(a) It is a relaxation of the law--that is, it takes away the
obligation of the law. Thus, it differs from permission, which is
fulfillment of what is conditionally allowed by the law.

(b) Dispensation is made for a particular case--that is, it is granted
when the provisions of the law, though beneficial to the community as a
whole, are not suitable for a particular person or case. Thus, it
differs, first, from abrogation and derogation, which remove the
obligation of the whole or a part of the law for the entire community;
and, secondly, from privilege, which is granted permanently as a
private law.

(c) Dispensation is given by competent authority--that is, by the
legislator or others who have the lawful power. Thus, it differs from
_epieikeia_ and private interpretation, which are made by those who
have no power to dispense.

(d) Dispensation is a relaxation of the positive law, for since the
Natural Law is immutable (see 305), no dispensation can be given from
its requirements. Thus, dispensation differs from the official
declaration or interpretation of the Natural or Divine Law (see 315).

402. Those who have the power to dispense from a law are the lawgiver
and others duly authorized. (a) The lawgiver himself can dispense as
follows: in his own laws, since he was able to make them; in the laws
of his predecessors, since his authority is equal to theirs; in the
laws of his inferiors, since they are his subordinates. (b) Others can
dispense who have received from the law, from their superior, or from
custom the necessary authority to dispense.

403. Those Who May Be Dispensed from a Law.--(a) Since dispensation is
an act of jurisdiction, only those can be dispensed who are in some way
subject to the dispenser. Since, however, the jurisdiction used in
dispensing does not impose an obligation but grants a favor, it is held
that he who has the power to dispense others may also dispense himself,
if his power is not restricted. (b) Since dispensation is an act of
authority, it may be exercised even in favor of one who is absent, or
ignorant of the dispensation or unwilling to accept it. But, since as a
rule favors should not be forced, the validity of a dispensation
generally depends upon the consent of the one dispensed.

404. The power of dispensing has for its end the common good, and
therefore it must be exercised: (a) faith fully, that is, not for
reasons of private interest or friendship; (b) prudently, that is with
knowledge of the case and with judgment that there are sufficient
reasons for dispensation.

405. In order that the reason for a dispensation be sufficient, it is
not required that it be so grave as to constitute a physical or moral
impossibility of keeping the law, since the obligation of the law
ceases in the face of impossibility (see 317, 487), without the need of
dispensation. Hence, lesser reasons suffice for dispensation.

406. A dispensation must be granted whenever the law itself or justice
requires it. The following cases are usually given: (a) when there
exists a reason that requires, according to law, that a dispensation be
granted; (b) when the common good, or the spiritual good of an
individual, or his protection from some considerable evil, demands the
concession of a dispensation.

407. A dispensation may be either granted or denied, when the case does
not demand it and the superior after careful investigation is not
certain whether the reason is sufficient or insufficient; otherwise, a
greater responsibility would rest on the superior than the law can be
thought to impose--viz., that of attaining certainty where it cannot
easily be had.

408. He who dispenses without a sufficient reason is guilty of the sin
of favoritism, and is responsible for the discontent and quarrels that
result. He is guilty of grave sin thus: (a) if serious scandal or other
inconvenience is caused, even when the dispenser is the lawgiver
himself; (b) if the law obliges under grave sin and the dispensation is
not granted by the lawgiver, but by an inferior who usurps the right to

409. The subject of dispensation is guilty of sin: (a) if he asks a
dispensation when he knows for certain that there is no sufficient
reason for it; (b) if, having been denied a dispensation, even though
unjustly, he acts against the law; or if he knowingly makes use of an
invalid or expired dispensation.

410. Sufficient reasons for a dispensation can be reduced to two
classes: (a) private welfare (e.g., the difficulty of the law for the
petitioner, a notable benefit he will receive through the dispensation,
etc.); (b) public welfare (e.g., the benefits that are secured to the
community, or the evils that are avoided through the dispensation).

411. _Epieikeia_.--Since human laws regulate particular and contingent
cases according to what usually happens, and since they must therefore
be expressed in general terms, exceptional cases will occur that fall
under the law, if we consider only the general wording of its text, but
that do not fall under the law, if we consider the purpose of the
lawgiver, who never foresaw the exceptional cases and would have made
different provision for them, had he foreseen them. In such exceptional
cases legalism insists on blind obedience to the law-books, but the
higher justice of _epieikeia_ or equity calls for obedience to the
lawgiver himself as intending the common welfare and fair treatment of
the rights of each person.

412. _Epieikeia_ may be defined, therefore, as a moderation of the
words of the law where in an extraordinary case, on account of their
generality, they do not represent the mind of the lawgiver; which
moderation must be made in the manner in which the lawgiver himself
would have made it, had he thought of the case, or would make it now,
were he consulted. Hence, _epieikeia_ differs from the various causes
that take away the obligation of a law, for it supposes the
non-existence of obligation from the beginning and non-comprehension in
the law.

Thus: (a) it is not revocation, desuetude, restrictive interpretation,
or dispensation; (b) it is not cessation on account of impossibility;
(c) it is not presumed permission or self-dispensation.

413. In its use _epieikeia_ is at once lawful and dangerous.

(a) It is lawful, for it defends the common good, the judgment of
conscience, the rights of individuals from subjection to a written
document, and from oppression by the abuse of power;

(b) it is dangerous, for it rests on the judgment of the individual,
which is prone to decide in his own favor to the detriment of the
common good as well as of self.

414. _Epieikeia_ by its very nature imposes certain limits on its use.

(a) It is based on the fact that a certain case is not comprehended in
a law, because the legislator did not foresee it.

Hence, _epieikeia_ is not applicable to the Divine Law; for the Divine
Lawgiver foresaw all cases that could arise, and so excluded all
exceptions (see 315). This is clear as regards the Ten Commandments and
other precepts of the Natural Law, since they deal with what is
intrinsically good or bad, and are unchangeable (see 307). But it
applies also to the prescriptions of the Positive Law of God, and
apparent cases of _epieikeia_, such as the eating of the loaves of
proposition by David (I Kings, xxi. 6), can be explained by the
cessation of law or divine dispensation. Examples: One may not excuse
certain modern forms of cheating on the plea that they were not thought
of when the Decalogue was given. One may not omit Baptism on the ground
that Christ Himself would have excused from it, had He foreseen the

(b) _Epieikeia_ is based on the principle that the words of a law must
be subordinated to the common good and justice. Hence, it is not
applicable to those laws whose universal observance is demanded by the
common good--that is, to irritant laws. Any hardship suffered by an
individual through the effect of such laws is small in comparison with
the injury that would be done to the common welfare if there were any
cases not comprehended in such laws; for irritant laws are the norms
for judging the validity of contracts and other acts, and public;
security demands that they be uniform and certain. Example: One may not
contract marriage with a diriment impediment, on the plea that the
Church would not wish the impediments to oblige under the serious
inconvenience that exists in one's case.

415. The dangers of _epieikeia_ also place limitations on its use.

(a) There is the danger that one may be wrong in judging that the
lawgiver did not wish to include a case under his law. If this is not
certain, one should investigate to the best of one's ability, and have
recourse, if possible, to the legislator or his representative for a
declaration or dispensation. It is never lawful to use _epieikeia_
without reasonable certainty that the legislator would not wish the law
to apply here and now.

(b) There is the danger that one may be in bad faith in deciding that
the common good or justice requires the use of _epieikeia_; the motive
in reality may be self-interest or escape from obligation, Hence, a
person should not use _epieikeia_ except in necessity, when he is
thrown on his own resources and must decide for himself; and, even
then, he must be sure that he acts from sincerity and disinterestedness.

416. Cases in which the use of _epieikeia_ is lawful are the following:

(a) Epieikeia in a wide sense--that is, a benign interpretation made by
a private individual that a particular case is not comprehended in the
intention of the lawgiver, because the latter had not the power to
include it--may be used for all cases in which the opposite
interpretation would set the law up in opposition to the common welfare
or would work injustice to individuals. Example: The law that goods
borrowed must be returned to their owners yields to _epieikeia_, if
there is question of putting weapons into the hands of one who would
use them against the public security or for the commission of murder;

(b) _Epieikeia_ in a strict sense--that is, the judgment that a
particular case is not included in the intention of the lawgiver,
because the latter had not the wish to include it--may be used for all
those cases in which the opposite interpretation would suppose in the
lawgiver a severity that is not likely. "The rigor of the law may be
extreme injustice" (Cicero, _De Officiis_, I, 10). Example: Titus has
the opportunity to make a notable sum of money on a Sunday morning, but
cannot make use of the opportunity without missing Mass that day. Caius
on a fast day feels well, but is tired and will be not a little
inconvenienced if he fasts. Both Titus and Caius may use _epieikeia_,
for the Church does not wish to be unkind, nor, generally speaking, to
have her laws oblige rigorously and for every case.

417. Though all human law is subject to _epieikeia_, the practice of
the civil law does not always allow it. (a) Action on individual
responsibility makes one guilty of technical violation. Example:
Balbus, fearing that his house may be robbed or he himself assaulted,
borrows a revolver and practises shooting. He had not time to get the
necessary permit, but argued that necessity knows no law. But, if he is
arrested, the court may hold him guilty of violating the law. (b)
Action in a court of equity, however, will give relief for cases not
provided for in law. Example: One may obtain an order from the court
restraining a neighbor from injury, when the law itself gives only the
right to recover damages for injury done.


418. The Church, being a perfect and independent society, has the power
to make laws for its members in order to promote the common spiritual
welfare. These laws are not an encroachment on the liberty of the
Gospel, for Christ Himself bestowed on the Church legislative and other
governmental powers suitable to her mission. The charter of the
legislative authority of the Church is contained in the words of
Christ to Peter: "I say to thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock
I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against
it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And
whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven;
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in
heaven" (Matt., xvi. 18, 19; see also Matt., xviii. 17; Luke, x. 16).

419. The character of laws made by the Church is as follows:

(a) their purpose is to guide and assist the individual that he may
more easily and perfectly fulfill the laws of Christ, and to protect
and promote the welfare of the Church as a whole;

(b) their contents generally do not impose what is the height of
perfection, but what is the minimum necessary for salvation (see 374);

(e) their number, unlike that of the laws of the Synagogue, is few.
There are only six precepts of the Church that bind all the faithful;
the other laws of the Church do not all oblige each individual, some
being for prelates, some for priests, some for religious, some for
judges, etc.;

(d) their obligation is not so strict as that of the laws of the Old
Testament, for they are more easily changed or dispensed.

420. General Law of the Church.--The general law of the Church is found
in the five books of the Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV
on May 27, 1917. It applies only to the Latin Church, except in those
matters that of their nature affect the Oriental Church as well, and it
has been in force from Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 1918.

421. The effects of the Code on the older legislation are as follows:

(a) it retains in their entirety liturgical laws that are not expressly
corrected; agreements of the Holy See with various nations, even if
they are opposed to the Code; favors, privileges and indults that are
not revoked (Canons 2-4);

(b) disciplinary laws of ecclesiastical origin opposed to the Code are
to be held as revoked, even if they are particular, unless the contrary
is provided. Disciplinary laws of ecclesiastical origin omitted by the
Code are retained in force, if they are particular; they are abrogated,
if they are general and not contained at least implicitly in the
Code; if a general law decreed a penalty, it must be expressly
mentioned in the Code to retain force (Canon 6);

(c) customs, universal or particular, opposed to the Code, when
expressly disapproved by it, must be corrected, even if immemorial;
when they are not expressly disapproved by the Code, they may or may
not be continued, as a rule, according as they are immemorial--or one
century old--or not (Canon 5).

422. The rules laid down for the interpretation of the Code are as
follows: (a) in those parts where the Code agrees with the older
legislation, it is to be interpreted by means of the latter; (b) in
those parts where it certainly disagrees with the older legislation, it
is to be interpreted from its own phraseology (Canon 6).

423. Lawgivers in the Church.--The Pope, as Vicar of Christ and Visible
Head of the Church, has supreme legislative power in the Church (Canon
218): "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church ....
And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, etc."
(Matt., xvi. 18, 19). Thus, the Pope can legislate: (a) for the whole
Church, either alone or with the body of the Episcopate subject to him
in an Ecumenical Council, either directly or through Congregations; (b)
for any part of the Church, either directly or through representatives.
Thus also, by Papal concession, legates may legislate for a place to
which they are sent, _Praelati nullius_ for a territory over which they
are placed, General Chapters for a Religious Order, and the like.

424. The Bishops, "placed by the Holy Ghost to rule the Church of God"
(Acts, xx. 28), have legislative power within their own territory,
dependently on the Pope (Canon 335). (a) They can make laws, each for
his own diocese, either in or out of a synod; (b) when gathered
together in council, provincial or plenary, they can legislate for
ecclesiastical provinces, or for all the faithful of their country.

425. Subject-Matter of Church Law.--The end of the Church being the
glory of God and the salvation of souls, she can legislate concerning
all matters that are sacred or that refer, directly or indirectly, to
the satisfaction of man or the worship of God (see Leo XIII, Const.
_Immortale Dei_, d. 1 Nov. 1885).

(a) The Church can call to mind those things that are already
prescribed by the Divine Law, Natural or Positive; and, although she
cannot dispense in these laws (see 313-814 and exception as to
hypothetical positive law in 357), she can interpret them
authoritatively, and can decide when obligations of the Divine Law,
that depend upon an act of the human will, cease (see 315-316).

(b) The Church can determine those things that were left undetermined
in the Divine Law. Examples: The manner in which the Lord`s Day is to
be sanctified, the times and frequency with which the Divine law of
Communion is to be fulfilled, the way in which the obligation of
fasting is to be complied with, etc.

(c) The Church can make laws in matters that were left free by our Lord
whenever this will promote the better observance of His law (e.g., many
church laws for the clergy and religious, for the conduct of worship,
for administration, etc.).

426. The acts that may be commanded by the Church are of various kinds.

(a) The Church may command acts that are purely external (e.g.,
fasting) and acts that are partly external and partly internal, that
is, those external acts to which, from the nature of things or from
law, a special moral act of the intellect or will must be joined (e.g.,
a true oath, a worthy confession or Communion).

(b) The Church may command acts that are purely internal, that is, acts
of the intellect or will that are not necessarily connected with any
external act (such as meditation, the intention in applying Mass,
ctc.), whenever she is explaining, applying, or determining the Divine
Law, or acting in virtue of the power of Christ. Examples: The Pope may
define a dogma to be accepted internally. A confessor may impose as
penance a pious meditation. The Church prescribes the days when pastors
must intend to offer Mass for their people. A religious superior may
command a spiritual retreat.

(c) It is more probable that, apart from instances such as those just
given, the Church cannot legislate regarding acts that are purely
internal. For unlike the divine Legislator, who sees the internal acts
of the soul and who can pass judgment on them, the Church cannot read
the heart or judge the conscience. Hence, it would appear useless for
the Church to give commandments about acts that elude her knowledge,
all the more so since the Divine Law has given commands and
prohibitions regarding internal acts and no one can escape the judgment
of God.

427. Those Bound by General Laws.--The general laws of the Church
oblige all and only such persons as are at once subjects of the Church
and capable of receiving a law (Canon 12).

(a) By Baptism one becomes a member of the Church, and hence it is the
baptized who are subject to ecclesiastical laws; (b) by her laws, the
Church commands only human and deliberate acts or omissions, and hence
it is only those who can reason that are subject to those laws. (c)
Moreover, unless the law expressly rules otherwise, those who, although
they have attained the use of reason, have not yet completed their
seventh year are not bound by purely ecclesiastical law. Specific
exceptions are stated in the law. Thus: (1) Canons 854, Sec.2, and 940,
Sec.1, regarding the reception of the sacraments in danger of death, Canon
859, Sec.1, stating the precepts of Easter Communion, and Canon 906,
containing the precepts of annual confession, declare that the law in
these matters is binding on persons having the use of reason,
regardless of the actual completion of the seventh year, The law of
fasting in Canon 1254, Sec.2 binds after the completion of the
twenty-first year. (2) Canon 1099 explicitly exempts non-Catholics, in
their own marriages, from the ecclesiastical form of marriage; also
Canon 1070 exempts them from the impediment of disparity of cult. (3)
The habitually insane are considered as infants under seven (Canon 88,
Sec.3). Accordingly, although they are bound by the Divine Law during
lucid moments, they are not usually bound by purely ecclesiastical laws
during this period.

428. By the unbaptized are here understood, not only those who have
never received Baptism (such as infidels, pagans, Mohammedans, Jews,
catechumens), but also those who were baptized invalidly. The divine
law of receiving Baptism and entering the Church applies to these
persons, but, as long as they are unbaptized, they are not subjects of
the Church. Thus: (a) directly they are not obliged by any
ecclesiastical law, and hence it is not sinful in itself to ask them to
do what is forbidden by such laws (e.g., work on a holyday); (b)
indirectly they become subject to ecclesiastical law when they enter
into law-governed relations with the baptized who are subject to church
law. Example: An unbaptized person who marries a Catholic is married
invalidly, unless the law on dispensation has been observed.

429. Baptized non-Catholics include heretics and schismatics. Thus: (a)
objectively, these persons are obliged by ecclesiastical laws, unless
they are excepted by the law itself, and hence it is not lawful
directly to induce them to transgress a Church law (e.g., to eat meat
on Friday); (b) subjectively, they are generally excused from formal
sin in the non-observance of Church laws, and it is not a sin to
co-operate materially in such non-observance (e.g., by giving meat on
Friday to a Protestant in good faith who requests it or wishes it).

430. It is held that the Church is more lenient as regards those
baptized as non-Catholics, that is, those who were born and brought up
in some non-Catholic sect. Thus: (a) laws that have for their object
the sanctification of the individual (such as fasting and abstinence,
Sunday Mass, etc.), are not insisted on for them, since this would hurt
rather than help their spiritual interests; (b) laws that have for
their object the protection of the public welfare (such as the laws
regarding mixed marriage), apply also to baptized non-Catholics.

Other authors do not admit this distinction and hold that these
non-Catholics are bound by the laws of the Church, since Canon 87
expressly states: By Baptism man is constituted a person in the Church
of Christ with all the rights and duties of Christians.

Apostates and excommunicated persons are certainly bound by all
ecclesiastical laws.

431. Oriental Catholics are not bound by pontifical laws (Canon 1)
except in the following cases: (a) when the matter is dogmatic; (b)
when the law implicitly extends to them, since it contains a
declaration of natural or divine law; (c) when the law is explicitly
extended to them. An example of (a) is Canon 218; of (b) Canon 228,2;
of (c) Canons 622, Sec.4 and 1099, Sec.1, 3.

432. It is a general rule that all persons baptized, as just explained,
are subject to ecclesiastical laws, if they are habitually able to
reason; but that they are not subject to those laws, if they are not
habitually able to reason.

First Rule.--Persons habitually able to reason are all those who in
their normal state are able to understand the difference between right
and wrong, that is, the majority of those who have completed seven
years of age. Such persons are subject to ecclesiastical laws, even
when actually they are unable to reason on account of temporary
intoxication, delirium, derangement, unconsciousness, etc. Hence, one
who would offer meat on Friday to a person momentarily unbalanced on
the plea that his condition excused him from the law, would do wrong;
for the state of passing irresponsibility excuses from formal sin (see
249), but not from the law.

Second Rule.--Persons habitually unable to reason are all those who
have not yet learned the difference between right and wrong (e.g.,
infants and idiots), or who have permanently lost all knowledge of
right and wrong (e.g., the hopelessly insane). These persons are not
bound by ecclesiastical laws, at least not by those that are directive.
Hence, in itself it is not wrong to give meat on days of abstinence to
such persons, even when they are Catholics.

433. Exceptions to the first rule just given are as follows:

(a) According to Canon Law, the age of reason comes legally when one
has completed seven years (Canon 12). If a boy or girl is able to
reason before that age, he or she is not obliged by laws that are
purely ecclesiastical, although it is advisable that parents accustom
their children to the hearing of Mass, to abstinence, etc., as soon as
this can be conveniently done. If a child has passed the seventh year
and does not appear able to reason, he is not bound by ecclesiastical

(b) According to Canon Law, the age of puberty is fixed for males at
the completion of fourteen years of age, for females at the completion
of twelve years of age (Canon 88, Sec.2). These who have not attained
this age are excused from all penal laws, unless a law expressly states
the contrary; for on account of the want of mature judgment they
deserve leniency (Canon 2230).

(c) The age of majority in Canon (as in Civil) Law is reached when one
has completed twenty-one years (Canon 88, Sec.1). Minors in the exercise
of rights are subject to the power of parents or guardians, except
where the contrary is declared by the law, as is the case for the
reception of the Sacraments and the choice of a religious life (Canon
89). They are not obliged by the law of fast (Canon 1254, Sec.2).

434. There are some exceptions to the second rule given in 432. Thus,
those laws of the Church that grant favors or that invalidate acts can
apply even to those who are habitually unable to reason (such as
infants and the perpetually demented); for laws of this kind are not
directive of the acts of subjects.

435. Those Bound by Particular Laws.--The particular laws of the Church
oblige all those who are subject to her general laws, and who become
subject to the laws of a locality by reason of domicile or personal
presence (Canon 13, Sec.2).

436. There are two kinds of domicile. (a) A true domicile or home is
acquired in a place in two ways: immediately, when one takes up one's
abode there, with the intention of remaining permanently or
indefinitely; finally, after ten years, when one has lived there so
long, even though there was no intention of remaining permanently
(Canon 92, Sec.1). (b) A quasi-domicile or residence is acquired in a
place in two ways: immediately, when one takes up one's abode there
with the intention of remaining there for at least the greater part of
the year; finally, after the greater part of the year, when one has
lived there so long (Canon 92, Sec.2).

437. With regard to abode, four classes of persons are distinguished in
Canon Law (Canon 91): (a) an inhabitant, who is one that has a domicile
in a place and is present there; (b) a resident, who is one that has a
quasi-domicile in a place and is present there; (c) a stranger, who is
one that is outside the places of his domicile and quasi-domicile; (d)
a _vagus_ or homeless person, who is one that has no domicile or
quasi-domicile anywhere.

438. The rules as regards those who are not strangers are: (a)
inhabitants and residents are subject to the diocesan, provincial, and
other particular laws of their territory (Canon 13, Sec. 2); (b) the
homeless are subject to the local laws of the territory where they are
present (Canon 14, Sec. 2).

439. The rules for strangers with reference to general laws (Canon 14,
Sec. 1, n. 3) are; (a) a stranger is obliged to follow these laws, if they
are observed in the place where he is, even though they are not in
force in the place of his domicile or quasi-domicile; (b) a stranger is
not obliged to observe general laws, if they are not in force where he
is, even though they are in force in the place of his domicile or
quasi-domicile. Thus, the general law of abstinence on Friday does not
oblige one who is travelling in a place where the law has been
suspended, even though he would be obliged by it at home. The traveller
would do better, however, to keep to the practice of his home.

440. The rules for strangers with regard to the particular laws of
their own domicile or quasi-domicile (Canon 14, Sec. 1, n. 1) are; (a)
they are obliged in two cases--first, when those laws are not
territorial but personal and obligatory on them everywhere (as is the
case with the statutes of religious superiors), and secondly, when the
violation of a territorial law would be harmful in its own territory
(as when by fiction of law one must be considered as present on account
of the law of residence); (b) they are not obliged in other cases.
Thus, if one is travelling on a feast-day that is a diocesan holyday in
one's home diocese, but not in the diocese where one is, one is not
obliged to hear Mass.

441. The following are the rules for strangers with regard to the
particular laws of the place where they are: (a) they are obliged in
two cases--first, when natural law itself requires that a territorial
law be observed by all, and secondly, when the Church includes
strangers among those who are subject to a territorial law; (b) they
are not obliged in other cases. Thus, if a person is travelling on a
feast-day that is observed as a holyday of obligation both in his home
diocese and in the diocese where he is, but not as a general holyday of
the Church, he is not obliged to hear Mass; for the law of his home
diocese does not bind him, since he is out of its territory, and the
law of the diocese where he is does not bind him, since he is not a
subject of that law.

442. The natural law requires that strangers should conform themselves
to local laws in the following cases:

(a) when non-observance would be a cause of scandal, which the natural
law commands one to avoid. In this sense we understand the rule of St.
Ambrose: "When you are at Rome, do as the Romans do." Hence, if a
stranger would cause real scandal by eating meat on a local day of
abstinence, he would be obliged to abstain from it;

(b) when a local law deals with the solemnities required for validity
of contracts (Canon 14, Sec. 1, n. 2). If strangers were not obliged by
laws of this kind, they could take advantage of the inhabitants, a
thing that is contrary to natural justice. Thus, "the place rules the

(c) when the local law has for its object the maintenance of public
order (Canon 14, Sec. 1, 11. 2); for the natural law demands that public
safety be guarded. Hence, a stranger who commits a crime is subject to
the penalties of the local law (Canon 1566).

443. Examples of territorial laws that oblige even strangers according
to the precept of the Church are the laws that require all, even
strangers, to follow the Calendar of the Church where they celebrate
Mass, and to say the _collectae imperatae_ prescribed by the bishop of
the local diocese.

444. The rules given for strangers can be applied also to those who are
in places exempt from local jurisdiction (e.g., in the monasteries of
exempt regulars). The exempt are those who by fiction of law are held
to be outside the territory of every diocese, and are subject, not to
the local bishop, but directly to the Pope (Canon 515).

445. There are various cases, however, in which exempt religious are
subject to the territorial laws of the diocese where they are. Thus:
(a) when they accept parishes in a diocese, they are subject to the
Ordinary in those matters that pertain to the parishes; (b) when the
common good or the avoidance of scandal requires it, they should
conform to a diocesan law.

446. Those who have a personal privilege can use it anywhere, for a
personal privilege, like a personal precept, follows the person, not
the territory.

447. Promulgation.--Church laws are promulgated as follows: (a) the
laws of the Holy See are promulgated by publication in the official
periodical, _Acta Apostolicae Sedis_. They become effective three months
from the date of publication, unless from the nature of the case they
oblige at once, or it is otherwise provided in the law itself (Canon
9); (b) the laws of a bishop are promulgated in the manner he decides,
generally by publication in the official periodical of the diocese.
They become effective as soon as published, unless it is otherwise
provided in the law itself (Canon 335, Sec. 2).

448. When a law has been promulgated and become known, if it begins to
be observed, it is said to be accepted; if it is not observed, it is
said to be not accepted. This acceptance is not essential to law.
Hence: (a) the observance of a law by the people is not necessary for
the obligatory force of the law, for otherwise the lawgiver would be
without real authority; (b) the approval of ecclesiastical laws by the
State is not necessary for their validity, since Church and State are
distinct and independent societies within the proper sphere of each.

449. A law that has been promulgated may fail to obtain force in the
following ways: (a) through contrary custom, already existing and not
excluded by the law, or then arising to abrogate the law (see 391
Sqq.); (b) through appeal entered with the lawgiver. Thus, if a bishop
deems a law of the Pope unsuited to his diocese, he explains the
reasons to the Holy See, and pending the answer it is considered that
the lawgiver does not wish the law to oblige.

450. Irritant Laws. Laws Based on Presumption.--There are two classes
of human laws that deserve particular mention on account of special
difficulties regarding them: (a) irritant laws, which would seem to be
unjust, since they declare null what according to natural law would be
valid; (b) laws based on presumption, which would seem to be of
uncertain force, since presumptions are often contrary to fact.

451. An irritant or inhabilitating law is one that expressly or
equivalently declares that certain defects make an act void or
voidable, or a person incapable. Such laws are just, even when made by
human authority, since it is the common good that makes them necessary,
and the natural law itself requires that the common good be promoted.

452. Irritant laws are of various kinds.

(a) They are morally or juridically irritant, according as that which
is taken from the irritated act is either the natural value it has in
conscience, or the positive value it derives from the law. Hence, an
act may be legally null (i.e., have no value that the law recognizes or
protects) and at the same time morally valid (i.e., of just as much
force in conscience as though no irritant law existed).

(b) Irritant laws are merely irritant or irritant and prohibitive,
according as they make an act invalid but not illicit, or both invalid
and illicit. Thus, a law that requires certain formalities for making a
will invalidates the act of writing an informal will, but does not make
it an offense; but the church law of diriment impediments makes a
marriage contracted with one of these impediments both null and sinful.

(c) Irritant laws are merely irritant or irritant and penal, according
as the legislator does not or does intend them as punishments. For
example, the law of clandestinity is merely irritant; the law regarding
the impediment of crime is probably both irritant and penal.

453. Laws that are merely irritant do not oblige one in conscience to
omit the act, but only to suffer the effect of irritation; but laws
that are both irritant and prohibitive oblige one in conscience to omit
the act. Example: In itself, it is not unlawful to make an informal
will, but it is unlawful to marry with a diriment impediment.

454. As to the time when irritant laws obtain their effect, the
following points are important.

(a) Ecclesiastical voiding laws oblige at once in conscience, although
like other laws of the Church they are not retroactive, unless the
contrary is provided, and they do not oblige in case of a doubt
concerning the law. Example: If espousals are made without the
canonical formalities, there is no duty to live up to them as such,
either in conscience or before the law.

(b) Civil voiding laws are generally only civilly irritant, for as a
rule external means are sufficient for the purpose of those laws; thus,
they produce civil irritation at once, but moral irritation only after
pronouncement by the courts. Hence, after a judicial sentence the
voided act becomes such morally, since the decision is founded on a
presumption of common danger (see below, 459). Examples: One who has
received money through a will which he knows to be informal (i.e.,
legally invalid), may retain possession until the civil authority
declares that he has no rights to the money. But, on the other hand,
one who has been disinherited through a will naturally good, but not
made in due form, has the right to contest, if we except the case of
pious bequests (see Vol. II).

455. Laws that make an act voidable or rescindable do not irritate
before declaration of nullity by a judge. Hence, an act that is
rescindable according to law retains its natural force until the court
has decided against it. Example: Acts that were done under the
influence of grave and unjust fear, or that were induced through
deception, are held as valid until declared null by a judge.

456. As to the effects of ignorance on acts irritated by law, the Code
states that ignorance of irritating (invalidating) and inhabilitating
(disqualifying) laws does not excuse from their observance, unless the
law expressly states otherwise (Canon 16, Sec. 1). Moralists discuss the
influence of ignorance (as well as force or fear) on such acts as
follows: (a) if the law is irritant and not penal, it has its effect,
in spite of ignorance, oversight, etc.; for this the common good
requires. Example: One who marries his cousin in good faith, being
invincibly ignorant that it is against the law, contracts invalidly;
(b) if the law is irritant and penal, the irritation being decreed
solely as a punishment, ignorance, oversight, etc., sufficient to
excuse from fault, excuse also from the penalty of irritation; for
penalty presupposes fault. Before the law, however, ignorance and error
as to law or penalties are not presumed but must be proved.
(Nevertheless, it must be noted that according to some authors no
penalty is necessarily or primarily intended in ecclesiastical
irritating and inhabilitating laws. Though punishment actually results
from the matrimonial impediment of crime, for example, the impediment
as such primarily is a personal disqualification intended to protect
the dignity of the sacrament and good morals. Ignorance, then, does not
excuse from it. Some authors maintain that this is true of all
ecclesiastical disqualifying laws.)

457. Generally speaking, _epieikeia_ may not be used in the
interpretation of irritating and inhabilitating laws. Since they
transcend the individual welfare, they demand uniform observance of all
subject to them. Some authors permit the use of _epieikeia_, however,
in particular cases in which the law itself aims to protect the
individual, whereas its observance would tend rather to harm the
individual or at times even the interests of the community.
Accordingly, it seems probable that an irritant law may cease in case
of impossibility or of a most grave inconvenience that is common.
Example: If in a pagan country Christians were so few that they could
marry only infidels, and if distance or other circumstances made it
impossible to seek a dispensation, the diriment impediment of disparity
of worship would seem to cease for those Christians.

458. Some authors hold that an irritant law may also cease on account
of impossibility, or of a most grave inconvenience that is only
private; but this opinion cannot be deemed certain. An example of
private inconvenience is the case of an invalidly married person who is
near to death and unable to seek the dispensation from the impediment
that has made the marriage null.

459. A law based on presumption is one in which the lawgiver rules for
certain cases according to what experience shows in their regard--viz.,
that such cases are generally dangerous, or indicative of a particular
fact. These laws are not of uncertain force, for the cases in which
they cease to oblige are few and definite.

460. When a law is based on a presumption of common danger and that
danger does not exist in a particular instance, the law nevertheless
obliges (Canon 21); for the end of the law is the common good, and if
it ceased for an individual whenever its presumption of danger was not
true in his case, everyone could persuade himself that the law did not
apply to him, and thus the common good would be defeated. Examples: The
law against the reading of irreligious books is based on the
presumption of common danger of sin, the law against clandestine
marriages on the presumption of common danger of fraud; hence, they
oblige even in the particular instances where these dangers are absent.
Examples of laws based on the presumption of common danger can be found
in Canons 199; 409, Sec. 1; 420; 422; 1022; 1028; 1114; 1116; 1138; 1396;

461. When a law is based on the presumption of a particular fact that
usually happens in the cases with which the law is concerned, and the
fact in an individual instance did not happen, does the law oblige?

(a) In conscience the law does not oblige of itself, because
presumptions must yield to the truth; but it may oblige accidentally,
if non-observance would cause great public or private harm. Example:
The law presumes that a person born and brought up among Catholics has
been baptized, and is therefore subject to the church laws. But if, in
fact, the person was never baptized, he is not subject to those laws,
as long as he remains unbaptized, unless there be some accidental
necessity of keeping them, such as the danger of scandal.

(b) Before the public authority the law in question does oblige until
the non-existence of the fact presumed by the law has been proved in
the manner required by law. Example: When parties contract marriage
according to the form prescribed by the Church, the presumption is that
the contract was valid, and, as long as that presumption is not
overcome, the Church will not sanction a new marriage by either of the
parties. But if it can be proved in court that threats or violence
produced lack of consent, the obligation not to contract a new marriage
will terminate before the law.

462. Fulfillment of Law.--With reference to the manner of fulfilling a
law there are a number of questions to be considered: (a) as to the
external acts, whether or not one can fulfill the law for another,
whether or not the omission of some slight detail renders compliance
insufficient, whether or not he who cannot fulfill the whole law is
bound to fulfill a part of it, whether or not several obligations can
be satisfied at the same time or by the same act, etc.; (b) as to the
internal acts, whether or not one must have the intention of meeting
the wishes of the lawgiver, whether or not one must be in the state of
grace, etc.

463. Personal fulfillment is not always necessary; for an affirmative
law requires either that some thing be given, or that some personal act
be performed. (a) When the law requires that some thing be given (e.g.,
that taxes be paid), the obligation can be satisfied through another,
since a thing can be transferred from one person to another, who agrees
at least interpretatively; (b) when the law requires that a personal
act be performed (e.g., that Mass be heard on Sunday), the obligation
cannot be satisfied through another, for actions cannot be transferred
from one to another.

464. Minute fulfillment is not always necessary; for sometimes the
minor details of the fulfillment of a law are expressly prescribed,
sometimes they are not.

(a) If these details are required by the law itself or by the nature of
the case, the law is not satisfied if they are neglected. Example:
Friday abstinence ends exactly at midnight, and hence to eat meat even
one minute before midnight is to break that abstinence.

(b) If the law does not prescribe minute details, these are not
required for the fulfillment of the obligation; for laws should not be
unduly burdensome. Example: One who is a few minutes late for Mass does
not miss Mass, if he is present for the essential parts of the Mass.

465. Partial fulfillment is required of him who cannot make complete
fulfillment, only when the part is commanded for its own sake; for that
which is commanded by a law is considered by the lawgiver as either an
indivisible unit, or as a whole composed of parts that have singly an
independent moral value and obligation.

(a) If the thing commanded is morally an indivisible unit (e.g., a
pilgrimage to a shrine), he who is not able to fulfill the whole law is
bound to nothing. Example: One who has made a vow to go on pilgrimage
to a distant sanctuary, is not bound to go part of the way, if he is
unable to make the entire journey.

(b) If the thing commanded has parts that contribute to the end of the
law, he who is able to fulfill only one or more such parts is obliged
according to his ability; if it is certain that he can perform even a
part, he is bound to that; if it is not certain that he can perform
even a part, it would seem that generally he is excused from all.
Examples: A cleric who can say some but not all the Hours of his
Office, is obliged to say what he can. A person who can certainly
abstain, but who cannot fast, is bound during Lent to abstain.

466. Simultaneous fulfillment by one act of several obligations is
lawful, if the obligations differ only materially. They are said to
differ only materially, if the motive of the legislator in giving
different commands about the same thing is the same in each instance;
they differ formally, if the legislator has a different motive in each
instance. The motive is recognized either from the express declaration
of the lawgiver, or from interpretation given through authority or

(a) When two commands differ only materially, it can be presumed that
the legislator is not unwilling that they be fulfilled by one and the
same act, unless it is clear that he wishes them to be fulfilled by
distinct acts. Example: If one falls sick at Easter time and receives
the Viaticum, it is not necessary for him to receive Communion again in
order to make his Easter duty; for the divine law of Viaticum and the
church law of Easter Communion have the same motive, and hence can be
fulfilled by one and the same Communion.

(b) When two commands differ formally, it can be presumed, unless the
opposite is manifest, that the legislator wishes them to be complied
with by distinct acts. Example: If a confessor imposes a fast as a
penance, this penance cannot be performed on a fast day; for the motive
of the law of fast is general, that of the sacramental penance is

467. Simultaneous fulfillment by several acts of several obligations is
sometimes possible, sometimes impossible. For the acts prescribed by
different laws are either capable or incapable of being done at the
same time. Thus, it is possible to hear a Mass and to say a penance of
some Hail Marys at the same time. But it does not seem easy for an
ordinary person to give attention to four or more Masses at the same

(a) If the acts do not impede one another and the legislator is not
unwilling, several laws can be fulfilled at the same time. Example: If
two Masses are being said on adjoining altars, one can hear both--the
one to satisfy the Sunday obligation, the other to perform a penance

(b) If the acts impede one another, or if the legislator wishes his
laws to be fulfilled at distinct times, the different obligations
cannot be satisfied simultaneously. Examples: If a distracted person
has received a penance to hear six Masses, he cannot hear them all at
once, on account of the division of attention necessary. If the
confessor told a person to hear Mass "three times," the latter cannot
satisfy by hearing three Masses at one time.

468. When a law prescribes not only what is to be done, but when it is
to be done, the time must be observed. But the obligation does not
always cease with the expiration of the time.

(a) If the time set by the law is a limit beyond which the obligation
ceases, he who has not complied within that time has no further
obligation. Examples: He who did not fast on Christmas Eve, would not
be obliged to fast on Christmas Day. He who did not hear Mass on
Sunday, would not be obliged to hear Mass on Monday.

(b) If the time set by the law is not a limit to terminate the
obligation, but a date fixed in order to insist on the obligation, he
who has not complied within the prescribed period, is nevertheless
still obliged. Examples: He who has not made the Easter duty by Trinity
Sunday, is obliged to receive Communion after Trinity. He who has not
paid a debt on the day required by law, is bound to pay it after that

469. It depends on the intention of the lawgiver whether the time he
prescribes for fulfillment is a limitation of the obligation or not.
The intention of the lawgiver is known either from the words or purpose
of the law, or from custom.

470. If the law declares that some duty must be performed within a
determined period, allowing freedom for earlier or later performance
within the period, the following points must be considered. (a) A
person is not obliged to comply early, if he intends to comply before
the period has ended. (b) He is obliged to comply early, if he foresees
that later he will not be able to do what is required. Examples: If a
person who has not made his Easter duty has the opportunity to receive
Communion on Easter Sunday, and will not have another such opportunity
till Christmas, he is obliged to receive on Easter Sunday. But, if he
can communicate any Sunday during the Paschal time, he is not bound to
do so on one of the early Sundays. If one can hear an early Mass, but
not another Mass, on a holyday, one must hear the early Mass.

471. Just as one may not delay fulfillment until after the time set by
law, so neither may one anticipate fulfillment before the time
determined, unless the law may be considered to allow this. Examples:
If a person has heard Mass on Saturday, he has no right to make this
count for the following day. A rosary said before confession cannot be
considered as performance of the penance, if in confession one is given
the rosary to say.

472. It is held that a cleric who said the Breviary in the morning,
just before he was ordained subdeacon and undertook the obligation of
the Office, satisfied by that anticipated recitation; likewise, that a
traveller who heard Mass in a place where a holyday of obligation of
the general law was not in force, has satisfied by anticipation, if
later in the morning he reaches as his destination a place where the
holyday is observed. For in both these cases the law intends that the
Office be said, or the Mass be heard within the day.

473. If a person who is now able to do what the law requires, foresees
that he will not be able to do this when the time set by the law
arrives, he is not obliged to anticipate fulfillment, even when he has
the privilege of anticipation. Examples: A cleric who at 2 p.m. is able
to anticipate Matins for tomorrow, and who knows that later, on account
of an operation, he will not be able to say his Office, is not bound to
anticipate; for no one is obliged to use a privilege. A person who is
able to hear Mass on Saturday, and who knows that all of Sunday must be
spent on the train, is not obliged to hear Mass on Saturday, though of
course this is the better thing to do.

474. The internal acts concerned in the fulfillment of a law are: (a)
those in the intellect, such as knowledge; (b) those in the will, such
as consent, motive.

475. Knowledge of what one is doing is sometimes necessary, sometimes
unnecessary for the fulfillment of a law.

(a) If the law is prohibitive, knowledge is not necessary, since
nothing more is required by the law than the omission of what is
forbidden. Example: He who ate no meat on a day of abstinence has
fulfilled the law, even though he was unconscious all day.

(b) If the law is preceptive of a payment to be made, knowledge is not
necessary, since the law requires nothing more than the effect of an
external act. Example: He who pays his taxes while intoxicated fulfills
his obligation, even though he does not know what he is doing.

(c) If the law is preceptive of an act to be performed, knowledge is
required, for it is supposed that the act will be exercised in a human
manner. Example: He who sleeps all during Mass on Sunday does not
fulfill his duty, for the law intends that one assist at Mass in a
human way (i.e., with consciousness of what is being done).

476. Fulfillment of a law is not morally good and meritorious, unless
it is voluntary (see 97 sqq.); but the legal obligation is sometimes
satisfied even by an unwilling fulfillment.

(a) When the law commands a payment to be made, one may will the
contrary of what is commanded and yet fulfill one's obligation.
Example: He who pays his taxes unwillingly and under compulsion
satisfies the law, which requires not an act, but its effect.

(b) When the law forbids something, it is possible that one does not
will the omission commanded and yet fulfills one's obligation. Example:
He who intends to eat meat on a day of abstinence which he thinks is a
meat day, but, being unable to find what he wants, omits the meat,
satisfies the law, which requires only that one omit what is forbidden
and have no will to violate the law.

(c) When the law commands that an act be performed, one must perform
the act willingly, since the law being for humans intends that
fulfillment be made in a human manner. Examples: He who is dragged to
church and forcibly detained there during Mass, does not satisfy the
law of sanctifying the Sunday, since force makes his assistance at Mass
involuntary (see 52). A child that goes to church only to escape
punishment satisfies its duty, if, in spite of reluctance, it really
intends to hear Mass, for fear does not necessarily make an act
involuntary (see 41 sqq.).

477. As to the intention required in fulfilling a law, it is to be
noted that one must have, at least implicitly, the intention of doing
what the law prescribes, in the case given in the third section (c) of
the preceding paragraph. Example: He who goes to church on Sunday while
Mass is being said with no other purpose than that of hearing the music
or of waiting for a friend, does not satisfy the Sunday duty, since he
does not at all intend to hear Mass.

478. The following kinds of intention, though to be recommended, are
not necessary for the fulfillment of a law.

(a) It is not necessary, as a rule, that one intend to satisfy one's
obligation, for human lawgivers have not generally the power or the
intention to command acts that are purely internal (see 374, 426).
Examples: He who hears Mass on a holyday not intending to perform his
duty, as he does not know that it is a holyday, has satisfied the law.
He who says the rosary out of devotion and then remembers that he has
an obligation of saying it because of a promise made or of a penance
received, can regard the rosary said as a fulfillment of his obligation.

(b) It is not necessary that one intend that which the lawgiver had in
mind as the purpose of the law; for "the end of the law is not a part
of the law." Example: A person who takes only one full meal during
Lent, observes the letter of the law; but he misses its spirit if he
eats or drinks greedily, daintily or copiously, in order to avoid the
mortification intended by the law.

479. If one intends to perform what a law prescribes, but at the same
time expressly intends not to satisfy, by that performance, the
obligation imposed, one's act is sufficient or insufficient for
fulfillment according to the source from which the obligation arises.

(a) If the obligation arises from the will of the lawgiver, the act is
a sufficient fulfillment, since the human lawgiver, as said in the
previous paragraph, does not concern himself with what is purely
internal. Example: If a person hears Mass on Sunday out of devotion,
intending to hear another Mass in satisfaction of the Sunday duty, he
is not bound to hear a second Mass, as he has already done all that the
law requires.

(b) If the obligation arises from one's own will, as in the case of a
promise or a vow, the act above described is not sufficient
fulfillment; for, as the obligation arose from the will, so also the
mode of fulfillment is to be determined by the will. Example: One who
has vowed to hear Mass, and who now while hearing Mass expressly
determines that not this but another Mass will be in satisfaction of
his vow, is bound by his vow to hear another Mass.

480. As to virtuous dispositions in fulfilling a law, it is to be
observed that, while a good lawgiver always wishes them, he does not
always require them as a duty of obedience. The virtuous dispositions
referred to are of two kinds: (a) habitual, that is, the permanent
spiritual condition of the soul, such as the state of grace, the habit
of charity, etc.; (b) actual, that is, the good manner in which the
commanded act is done, such as devout attention in hearing Mass,
heartfelt contrition in making confession, freedom from vain-glory in
fasting, etc.

481. Virtuous dispositions are or are not commanded according as that
which is prescribed is or is not a mixed, or a purely external act (see
above, 426).

(a) When a mixed act is commanded by law, the virtuous disposition that
the nature of the case calls for, but nothing further, is strictly
prescribed. Hence, the law of Easter Communion requires that Communion
be received in the state of grace, the law of yearly confession that
the penitent be truly contrite, the law of Sunday Mass that there be
sufficient attention to the Mass; but more perfect dispositions (such
as freedom from venial sin in the communicant, perfect contrition in
the penitent, the state of grace in him who hears Mass) are not
required for the fulfillment of the laws we are considering.

(b) When a purely external thing is commanded, the law does not require
internal dispositions, and hence one who performs what is required is
not obliged to repeat it on account of the imperfect way he obeyed.
Example: He who fasts while he is not in the state of grace is not
obliged to fast again to make good what was lacking in his previous

482. Of course, what was said in the preceding paragraph has to do only
with single laws, and with what is strictly needed for the fulfillment
of the law. Hence: (a) he who sins because of the way in which he
fulfills one law, violates another law (e.g., one who is willingly,
though not entirely, distracted at Mass, obeys the church law of
assistance at Mass on Sunday, but he disobeys the divine law that he
worship God devoutly);

(b) he who has less devotion in obeying a law than he might have had,
does not deserve reprehension as a transgressor, but his conduct is
less praiseworthy.

483. Interpretation.--The meaning of interpretation and its various
species were explained above in 315 sqq.

484. As to the force of interpretation of church laws, the following
points must be noted:

(a) Authentic interpretation given in the form of law has the force of
law; if it is merely declarative of words of the law certain in
themselves, it does not need promulgation and is retroactive; if it is
supplementary, it needs promulgation and is not retroactive, since it
is a new law (Canon 17, Sec. 2);

(b) Authentic interpretation given in the form of judicial sentence or
of rescript in a particular matter has not the force of law; and it
obliges only the persons and affects only the things concerned (Canon
17, Sec. 3);

(c) Usual interpretation has the force of law when it is given through
a legitimate custom (see above, 391 sqq.), for "custom is the best
interpreter of law";

(d) Doctrinal interpretation has not the force of law, since it does
not proceed from the lawgiver. Its value depends on the reasons and the
authority by which it is supported. When all the doctors agree, their
interpretation is morally certain; when they disagree, the various
interpretations have more or less probability.

485. Rules for Doctrinal Interpretation.--(a) The words must be
understood in their proper sense according to text and context, unless
this be impossible; if doubtful, they must be judged according to
parallel places in the Code, the circumstances, reason of the law, and
the mind of the lawgiver (Canon 18).

(b) Things that are burdensome should be understood in their most
restricted sense (Canon 19), things that are favorable in their widest
sense. Thus, the censure pronounced against simony is understood in the
narrow sense of simony against the divine law; a privilege granted to
the clergy is understood in the wide sense as given to all the clergy.

(c) Things that remain obscure should be understood in the sense that
is least burdensome to subjects.

(d) A particular law derogates from a general law; but a general law
does not derogate from a previous particular law, unless derogation is
expressly mentioned in the general law; for the particular law is
considered an exception to the general law (Canon 22).

486. Authentic interpretations of ecclesiastical laws are given by the
legislator, his successor, or one delegated by either (Canon 17, Sec. 1).
(a) The Pope is the authentic interpreter of all ecclesiastical laws. A
special commission appointed by the Pope interprets the general law of
the Code. (b) The bishop is the authentic interpreter of diocesan laws
made by himself or by his predecessors.

487. Cessation of Obligation.--The ordinary ways in which a law ceases
to be obligatory for an individual are: (a) on the part of the subject,
that he ceases to be subject to the law (exemption), or is unable to
observe it (excuse); (b) on the part of the lawgiver, that he removes
the obligation for the individual (dispensation).

488. As to exemption from Church laws note: (a) he who ceases to be
subject to the law (e.g., one who has received a privilege of
exemption, or who has departed from the place where the law is in
force), is of course not obliged by the law; (b) neither is he guilty
of any fault if he brought about his freedom only just before the law
became effective and with the sole purpose of being exempt; for the law
does not oblige that one remain subject to it.

489. Excuses from the law are reduced to two, namely, ignorance and

(a) Ignorance excuses from the guilt of non-observance, if it is
inculpable (see 24 sqq.). The question now is whether or not and when
it excuses from legal consequences, such as invalidity, penalty,
reservation of sin, etc.

(b) Impossibility excuses from both obligation and guilt.

490. Ignorance of ecclesiastical law or of a penalty attached to the
law has the following effects determined in the law: (a) No kind of
ignorance excuses from irritating or inhabilitating laws, unless the
contrary is expressly provided for in the law itself (Canon 16, Sec. 1).
Thus a person who contracts marriage, while ignorant that he and the
other person are first cousins, is invalidly married.

(b) Affected ignorance of ecclesiastical law or of the penalty alone
does not excuse from any penalties _latae sententiae_ (Canon 2229, Sec.1).

(c) If the law contains the following words: _praesumpserit, ausus
fuerit, scienter, studiose, temerarie, consulto egerit_, or others
similar to them which require full knowledge and deliberation, any
diminution of imputability on the part of either the intellect or the
will exempts the delinquent from penalties _latae sententiae_ (Canon
2229, Sec.2). (d) If the law does not contain such words, crass or supine
ignorance of the law or even of only the penalty does not exempt from
any penalty _latae sententiae_; ignorance that is not crass or supine
exempts from medicinal penalties, but not from vindicative penalties
_latae sententiae_ (Canon 2229, Sec.3, 1).

491. Other specific determinations of the law include: (a) Inculpable
ignorance of the law itself excludes moral imputability (Canon 2202,
Sec.1); actual inculpable inadvertence or error in regard to the law has
the same effect (Canon 2202, Sec.3). (b) Culpable ignorance, or culpable
inadvertence, or error concerning the law or concerning the fact
diminish imputability more or less in proportion to the culpability of
the ignorance (Canon 2202, Sec.1). (c) If the ignorance, even inculpable,
affects only the fact of the existence of the penalty, it does not
exclude imputability of the delict, but it does diminish it (Canon
2202, Sec.2).

492. Absolute or physical impossibility (i.e., the want of the power or
of the means of complying with a law), of course, excuses from its
observance; for no one is bound to what is impossible. This applies to
divine law, and hence much more to human law. Example: He who is unable
to leave the house is not obliged to go to Mass.

493. Moral impossibility--that is, the inability to comply with the law
without extraordinary labor, or the imminent danger of losing a notable
good or of incurring a great evil--does not excuse from the observance
of ecclesiastical law when this law receives through circumstances the
added force of the negative law of nature. This happens when the evil
that will result through the observance of the law bears no proportion
to the evil that will result from its violation, the former being
private or temporal or human, the latter public or spiritual or divine;
for the law of nature forbids that the common welfare, or the salvation
of a soul, or the honor of God be sacrificed for the benefit of an
individual, or for the life of the body, or for the welfare of a
creature. Example: The command to abstain from meat on Friday obliges,
if one has been ordered to violate it as a sign of contempt of God or
of religion, even though death is threatened for refusal.

494. Moral impossibility excuses from the observance of a human law in
the following cases:

(a) One is excused when a considerable loss in health, reputation,
spiritual advantage, property, etc., or a grave inconvenience will
result from observing a law which is not a prohibition of nature in the
sense of the previous paragraph; for the legislator cannot impose
obligations that are needlessly heavy, and hence positive law does not
oblige in case of such moral impossibility. Example: Our Lord reproved
the inhuman rigor of the Pharisees, who insisted that their regulations
must be observed, whatever the difficulty or cost.

(b) One is excused when a lower or less urgent law is in conflict with
a law that is higher or more urgent. In such a case the greater
obligation prevails, and the lesser obligation disappears. Examples:
The divine laws that one must preserve one's life or administer Baptism
to a dying person prevail over the human law of attendance at church.
The less urgent law of fasting yields to the more urgent law of
devoting oneself to duties required by one's state of life, if there is
a conflict between the two laws.

495. The loss, evil or inconvenience that constitutes moral
impossibility with respect to a law, must bear a proportion to the law
itself; and hence the higher or the more imperative the law, the
greater must be the reason that suffices to excuse from it.

496. Only a learned and prudent man can determine whether moral
impossibility exists with reference to a particular case, and hence it
would be dangerous for those who are not theologians to decide, either
for themselves or for others. The points that have to be considered in
judging are: (a) whether or not the difficulty is of a gravity
proportionate to the importance of the law (e.g., a graver reason is
required to excuse from a law that obliges under mortal sin than to
excuse from a law that binds under light sin); (b) whether or not the
difficulty is grave in relation to the person concerned (e.g., an
obligation that is easy for a healthy person may be very difficult for
one who is infirm).

497. It is never lawful to bring about either physical or moral
impossibility of observing a law, if this be done with the sole or
principal purpose of escaping one's duty. Example: To go away on
Saturday in order to avoid Mass on Sunday.

498. It is lawful to cause impossibility of observing a law, if there
be some sufficient reason for doing this; for it is lawful to do
something from which two effects, one good and the other bad, result,
if the good effect is the one intended, and there is a sufficient
reason for permitting the evil effect (102 sqq.). Example: It is
sometimes lawful to do some extra work that is very useful, even if the
labor makes one unable to observe a fast.

499. The sufficient reason spoken of in the last paragraph is one that
is proportionate to the urgency and importance of the command and to
the frequency of the non-observance. Examples: A greater reason is
required to take up some work which will make it impossible to keep the
fast, if this be done on the fast day itself, than if it be done the
day before. A far greater reason is required to take up some work that
makes the observance of the fast impossible, if this happens frequently
or habitually, than if it happens only once or twice.

500. Cessation of Law.--A law ceases in two ways.

(a) It ceases from without (i.e., from the act of the legislator), when
he abolishes it, by total or partial revocation (abrogation,
derogation), or by the institution of a new law directly contrary to it
(obrogation). In the new Code of Canon Law there are many instances of
revocation or obrogation of older legislation (see Canons 22, 23), as
in the matter of censures and matrimonial impediments. Examples: In the
diocese of X a minor feast was made a holyday of obligation. This law
was abrogated, if later on it was decreed that neither the prohibition
against servile works nor the precept of hearing Mass was obligatory
for that feast; it was derogated from, if later it was decreed that
servile works were permitted, but Mass was obligatory for that day; it
was obrogated, if a later law included the minor feast in a list of
special days of devotion for which the hearing of Mass was recommended.

(b) A law ceases from within (i.e., of itself), when through change of
conditions the purpose for which it was made no longer exists, or is no
longer served by the law.

501. The purpose for which a law was made ceases to be served by the
law in two cases.

(a) A law no longer serves its purpose, if, from having been a benefit,
it has become a detriment, inasmuch as its observance now would be
wicked, or impossible, or too burdensome. In this case the law ceases,
since it is now contrary to the supreme law that the common welfare be
promoted. Example: A particular law forbade the use of fat or grease in
the preparation of food on days of abstinence. Later, it became
impossible to procure the substitutes previously used.

(b) A law no longer serves its purpose, if, from having been useful, it
has become useless, inasmuch as it is no longer necessary for the end
intended by the lawgiver. In this case the law ceases, for regulations
should not be imposed needlessly. Example: The Council of Jerusalem
made a law that the faithful should abstain from using as food animals
that had been strangled (Acts, xv. 20). The purpose of the law was to
avoid offense to the Jewish converts, who at that time formed a large
part of the Christian community and who had a religious abhorrence for
such food. But shortly afterwards, the Gentile element having become
stronger in the Church, no attention was paid to ceremonial rules of

502. A law ceases to serve its purpose also as follows:

(a) The law becomes harmful or useless with reference to the purpose of
the lawgiver generally and permanently, if the changed conditions
affect the whole community or the great majority, and are lasting. In
this case the law ceases; for, since it is made for the community as a
whole and as a lasting ordinance, it cannot endure, if it becomes
permanently unserviceable to the community. Examples are given in the
previous paragraph.

(b) The law becomes harmful or useless with reference to the lawgiver's
purpose privately or temporarily, if the harm or uselessness affects
only individuals, or is not lasting. In this case the law continues to
be an instrument of public welfare, or is only momentarily deprived of
its beneficial character. Hence it endures; but for temporary
inconvenience to the public a remedy is had in suspension of the law,
for inconvenience to individuals in dispensation. Example: If the use
of fats or grease were forbidden on days of abstinence, and if for a
time only it were impossible to obtain the substitutes for the
preparation of the food, the law would not cease, but would be
suspended until such time as substitutes could be obtained.

503. The inconvenience caused to individuals from the fact that a law
does not serve its purpose in a case before them, does not always
justify the use of _epieikeia_.

(a) If the observance of the law would be detrimental to the purpose
intended by the lawgiver, _epieikeia_ might be used; for the lawgiver
does not intend that his law should be an obstacle to what he has in
view as its end. Example: Caius needs to read a book placed on the
Index in order to defend the Faith against attacks, but he is unable to
request the general faculty to read forbidden works. Obedience to the
law in this case would defeat the purpose of the law, which is the
protection of faith, and hence Caius may use epieikeia.

(b) If the observance of the law would be unnecessary, but not
detrimental as regards the purpose of the lawgiver, _epieikeia_ may not
be used; else the law would lose its force through the judgments of
individuals in their own favor, and the common welfare would suffer.
Examples: Titus has an opportunity to read a book placed on the Index,
but has not the time to apply for permission. The work was condemned as
dangerous to faith; but Titus is strong in faith, and wishes only to
study the literary qualities of the writer. Sempronius, a parish
priest, is requested to officiate at a marriage immediately, without
proclaiming the banns or seeking a dispensation from proclamation. The
purpose of the law of banns is that impediments may be detected and
invalid marriages avoided, and Sempronius is absolutely certain that
there is no impediment in the case before him. Titus and Sempronius
must observe the law, and the same must be said as regards every actual
case in which there is the possibility of self-deception and peril to
the common good. The theoretical case, in which neither of these
inconveniences would be present, need not be considered.

504. The purpose of the law ceases to exist as follows:

(a) adequately, when all the reasons on account of which it was made
are no longer in existence; in such a case the law itself ceases, for
the lawgiver is not considered as intending to oblige when the reason
for obligation has ceased. Example: If the bishop orders prayers to be
said for rain, the prayers cease to be obligatory when rain has come;

(b) inadequately, when the reason for the law has ceased partially, but
not entirely. In such a case the law does not cease, for it still
remains useful. Example: If the bishop orders prayers for peace and
rain, the prayers are obligatory until both requests have been obtained.

505. A law ceases, therefore, in greater or less degree, according to
circumstances. (a) It ceases entirely or partially, according as it is
revoked or as it becomes useless as to all its provisions, or only as
to one or more of them; (b) it ceases permanently or temporarily,
according as the revocation or cessation is only for a time, or for

506. Custom.--In Canon Law custom can interpret, abrogate or introduce
law, provided: (a) it has the qualities of legitimate custom, and (b)
its existence is proved juridically, or is notorious.

507. According to their extension, customs are of various kinds. (a)
Universal customs are those that prevail in the entire Church; (b)
particular customs are those that are confined to a territorial portion
of the Church (e.g., a province of the Church or of an Order); (c)
special customs are those that are followed in societies that are
smaller, but capable of having their own laws (e.g., independent
monasteries); (d) most special customs are those observed by
individuals, or by communities not capable of having their own
legislation (e.g., parishes). At the most, customs of this last class
have only the force of privilege (Canon 26).

508. Custom is formed as follows. (a) As to origin, it arises from the
practice of the people, when this practice is followed with the purpose
of making or unmaking a law. Hence, the habitual way of acting of an
individual, even if he be the superior, does not give rise to a custom.
By "people" here is meant a community capable of having its own law
(Canon 26). (b) As to legal force, custom arises solely from the
consent of the Pope or other prelate, when this consent is expressed by
the law or lawgiver, or tacitly admitted by him. Hence, a custom not
approved by the superior has no legal force (Canon 25).

509. A custom can introduce or abrogate any kind of ecclesiastical law
or other custom--penal, prohibitive, irritant--if it is reasonable and
has lasted the prescribed time (Canons 27, 28). Examples: A law that
forbids contrary customs can be abrogated, according to the Code, by
such customs when they are immemorial, or a century old (Canon 27, Sec.
1). The impediment of disparity of worship became diriment through
custom; it was custom that introduced the obligation of the Divine
Office, and that mitigated the early law of fast.

510. A custom expressly disapproved of in law is not reasonable or
legitimate, and cannot derogate from an existing law, nor establish a
new law (Canons 27, 28).

511. The time prescribed by the Code of Canon Law for the acquisition of
legal force by customs that have not the personal consent of the
lawgiver is as follows: (a) forty continuous and complete years are
required to unmake an ordinary law; one hundred years to unmake a law
that forbids future contrary custom (Canon 27, Sec. 1); (b) forty
continuous and complete years are likewise required to make a new law
(Canon 28).

512. The effect of the Code on customs previously existing was
considered above under 421.

513. Like the written law, custom ceases: (a) from within, when its
purpose has ceased entirely; (b) from without, when it is abrogated by
desuetude, or by a contrary law or custom (Canon 30).

514. Laws in a Wide Sense.--In addition to laws strictly so-called,
there are laws in a wide sense, commands or provisions made by
ecclesiastical superiors that have not all the conditions given above
(see 285) for law. Such are: (a) precepts, which differ from law,
because they are given not to the community or permanently, but to
individuals or temporarily; (b) rescripts, which are given with regard
to particular cases and without the solemnity of law; (c) privileges,
which are not obligatory; (d) dispensations, which are relaxations of
law granted to individuals.

515. A precept is a command given to individuals, or for an individual
case, by a competent superior.

(a) It is a command obliging in conscience, and so differs from
counsel, desire, exhortation.

(b) It is given to individuals, and thus differs from law, which has
the character of universality and stability. A precept may be imposed
on a community, but even then it is particular, as being given only for
an individual case or for a certain length of time--for a month or a
year, or during the lifetime of the superior.

(c) It is given by a competent superior. Even here precept differs from
law, since laws can be made only by one who has jurisdictional or
public authority (see above, 285), while precepts may be given also by
those who have only dominative or private authority (as parents, heads
of families, husbands, employers, abbesses). In canonical matters
precepts may be given by religious superiors, parish priests, rectors
of seminaries, and for the court of conscience by the confessor.

516. Precept is similar to law: (a) as to its object, which must be
just, good, and possible of observance; (b) as to its binding force,
since it can be imposed even on those who are unwilling.

517. Precepts are personal (i.e., they affect the person to whom they
are given wherever he may be), unless they are given as territorial
(Canon 24). Hence: (a) a precept given by one who has no territorial
authority (e.g., a religious superior) is personal; (b) a precept given
by the Pope, whose authority includes every territory, is also
personal; (c) a precept given by the bishop is personal, if given to an
individual; it is personal or territorial if given to a community,
according to the nature of the case or the wording of the precept.
Example: The precept not to go to theatres during a journey, imposed by
a bishop under pain of suspension, obliges everywhere, both as to fault
and as to penalty.

518. As to the force of precepts: (a) morally or as to fault, they
oblige, so that the violator is guilty of disobedience and of sin
against any particular virtue the superior willed to impose under
precept; (b) juridically or as to the penalty prescribed, they do not
oblige, unless the precept was given legally--i.e., by a written
document, or in the presence of two witnesses, etc. (Canon 24).
Example: If a precept was given under the penalty of loss of office,
but without the legal formalities, the canonical process and sentence
of deprivation could not be resorted to.

519. A precept expires of itself with the expiration of the authority
that gave it (e.g., at the death or cessation of office of the
superior), unless the precept was given by document or before witnesses
(Canon 24).

520. A rescript is a written reply made by the Holy See or the Ordinary
to a request, statement, or consultation. Replies of this kind are
employed in reference to the concession of benefices and to
dispositions to be made concerning litigation and judicial procedure.
Usually they grant favors, either transitory--e.g., a dispensation--or
permanent--e.g., a privilege (Canons 36-62).

521. A privilege is a special and permanent right granted by a ruler to
an individual or community to act contrary to or beyond the law.

(a) It is a permanent right, and so resembles law, which is also stable
and forbids interference with what it grants.

(b) It is a special right, and so it differs from law, which is general
and imposes obligation. It is sometimes styled "private law." Moreover,
law requires promulgation, privilege requires only acceptance.

(c) It is granted by the ruler (i.e., by the Pope, bishop, or other
legislator), and thus it differs from permission granted by a simple

(d) It is granted to a person, that is, to an individual (Titus, Caius,
Balbus, etc.) or to a congregation or community; for, if granted to
all, it would not be special.

(e) A privilege gives the right to act contrary to the general law
(e.g., by exempting from a tax) or beyond the general law (e.g., by
granting the power to dispense). Thus, a privilege differs also from
prerogatives that are set down in the Code itself (e.g., the special
rights and faculties of Cardinals, bishops, regulars, etc.), all of
which are laws and not privileges in the strict sense.

522. The rules for interpretation of privileges are similar to those
for the interpretation of law (see 483 sqq.). They should be neither
extended nor restricted, but should be understood according to the
meaning of the words themselves (Canon 67), yet so that the party
receiving the privilege will seem to have obtained a favor (Canon 68).
If the meaning intended is doubtful, the following rules of the Code
(Canons 50, 68) should be followed: (a) wide interpretation is to be
given to the privileges that are beyond or outside of the law and that
are not prejudicial to others, as well as to privileges that were given
as a reward of merit; (b) strict interpretation is to be given to
privileges that are contrary to law (saving the cases of privileges
granted to pious causes or in favor of a community), to privileges
granted because of an agreement made, and to privileges that are
prejudicial to third parties.

523. A privilege is a favor, and hence does not as such impose the duty
of acceptance or use; but obligations owed to others often make it
necessary to avail oneself of a privilege (Canon 69).

(a) Prerogatives granted in the law cannot be renounced by individuals,
since their preservation is required by the common good. Example: A
cleric has no right to abandon an immunity which the law gives to his

(b) Privileges granted to a community can be renounced by the
community, but not by its individual members. An individual member is
not bound, however, to use the privilege, unless there be accidental
reasons, such as the command of a superior, that require him to do so.

(c) Privileges granted to individuals need not be used by them, unless
there be accidental reasons that call on one to use a privilege.
Example: A priest who has the privilege of a private oratory is not
bound to establish such an oratory; but a priest who has the privilege
of absolving from reserved cases is bound in charity to use it, if a
penitent would otherwise suffer.

524. Dispensation differs from privilege: (a) because the former from
its nature is temporary, the latter permanent; (b) because the former
is always contrary to the law, whereas the latter may be only beyond
the law.

525. The Pope can dispense as follows: (a) in all ecclesiastical laws
he can grant a dispensation strictly so-called (Canon 81); (b) in
divine laws in which the obligation depends on an act of the human will
(such as the laws of oaths, vows, contracts, etc.), he can grant a
dispensation improperly so-called (see above, 313 sqq., 357), In other
divine laws, he can interpret or declare, but he cannot dispense.

526. The Ordinary can dispense as follows: (a) in the general law of
the Church when he has an explicit or implicit faculty from the Pope or
from the law (Canon 81); (b) in diocesan laws and, in particular cases,
also in laws of provincial and plenary councils, when there is just
reason (Canon 82); (c) in papal laws made for a particular territory,
when faculty has been given explicitly or implicitly, or recourse to
the Holy See is difficult (Canon 82); (d) in all ecclesiastical laws
that are dispensable, when there is doubt of fact (Canon 15).

527. The pastor can dispense as follows: (a) from the general law
concerning feasts of obligation and from the laws of fast and
abstinence. The dispensation can be granted either to his own subjects
or to strangers, but only for a just reason, in individual instances
and for particular individuals or families. The bishop may dispense the
whole diocese, but the pastor cannot dispense the whole parish (Canon
1245). (b) When there is danger of death, the pastor can dispense from
matrimonial impediments as provided in Canon 1044.

528. Religious superiors, local superiors included, can dispense in the
laws and statutes of their own institutes, except where this is
forbidden. In clerical and exempt institutes the superiors can also
dispense the subjects and all who live day and night in the religious
house (such as students, guests and servants) from the general laws of
the Church, as follows:

(a) The higher superiors, such as abbots, generals, provincials, have
the same authority in this respect as the bishop has with reference to
his own diocese. Hence, they can dispense in all ecclesiastical laws in
which the Pope dispenses, when there is doubt of fact, or recourse to
the Holy See is difficult (Canons 15, 81); in case of necessity, they
can dispense from the laws of abstinence individuals, or an entire
convent, or an entire province (Canon 1245, Sec. 2); they can dispense in
irregularities as provided in Canon 990, Sec. 1.

(b) The other superiors, local superiors included, can dispense their
subjects from the laws of fast and abstinence in the same manner as
pastors are able to dispense their parishioners (Canon 1245, Sec. 3),
Religious superiors are also able to dispense the private non-reserved
vows of their subjects (Canons 1313, Sec. 2, 1314).

529. Confessors, when delegated, can dispense as follows: (a) with
ordinary faculties, from impediments, irregularities and penalties, as
provided in Canons 1044, 1045, 985, 990, 2290; (b) with privileged
faculties, from simple vows not reserved to the Pope, if no injury is
done to the rights of a third party; and from occult irregularity
produced by delinquency, that from homicide excepted. (In the internal
sacramental forum the confessor can dispense from the impediments
indicated in Canons 1043-1045.)

530. Priests that assist at marriages can dispense from impediments as
provided in Canons 1043-1045.

531. The manner of seeking dispensations is as follows: (a) for the
usual dispensations (e.g., those from fast, abstinence, observance of
feasts, and the vows that may be dispensed by confessors) no particular
procedure is required; (b) for the dispensation that must be sought
from the Holy See, if the matter belongs to the internal forum, the
petition is sent to the Sacred Penitentiary through the Confessor or
Ordinary; if it belongs to the external forum, it is sent to the
competent Congregation through the parish priest or Ordinary.
Dispensation from public marriage impediments must be sent through the

532. The manner of preparing a petition for dispensation is as follows:
(a) the name of the penitent must not be given in petitions to the
Sacred Penitentiary, but the name and address of the party to whom the
reply is to be sent should be clearly given; (b) the petition should be
sent by letter. It may be written in any language, and should state the
case with its circumstances, the favor that is asked, and the true
reason for asking it.

533. A dispensation is invalidated as follows: (a) through defect of
the petition, if it contains a substantial error, and the dispensation
is given on condition of substantial truth (Canon 40); (b) through
defect of the petitioner, if he is incapable of receiving the favor
asked (Canon 46); (c) through defect of the dispensation, as when the
requisite signature or seal is omitted; (d) through defect of the
dispenser, as when he lacks jurisdiction, or grants without a just and
proportionate reason a dispensation for which he has only delegated
power (Canon 84).

534. If a dispensation is unjustly refused, note the following: (a)
ordinarily, the subject has not the right to hold himself free from the
law; (b) in extraordinary circumstances, when the law ceases, or no
longer obliges (see 487 sqq.), the subject is free.

535. The faculty of dispensing should be interpreted as follows: (a)
widely, when it was granted for cases in general (Canon 200, Sec.1); (b)
strictly, when it is granted for a particular case (Canon 85).

536. A dispensation itself should be interpreted strictly in the
following cases: (a) when the dispensation has an odious side, as when
it is contrary to law and advantageous to private interest or is
detrimental to a third party; (b) when wide interpretation is
dangerous, as favoring injustice, promoting ambition, etc. (Canons 50,

537. A dispensation ceases intrinsically in the following ways: (a) by
the lapse of the period of time for which it was granted; (b) by the
entire and certain cessation of the motive of the dispensation, if the
effect of the dispensation is divisible--that is, if the motive for
dispensation has to be existent each time that the law calls for an act
or omission (Canon 86). Example: If one is dispensed from the fast or
Office on account of ill-health, and later recovers, the dispensation

538. A dispensation ceases extrinsically in the following ways: (a) by
the act of the one who dispensed, if he validly recalls the
dispensation, or by his cessation from office, if he limited the
dispensation to his own term of authority (Canons 86, 73); (b) by the
act of the one who was dispensed, if he renounces the dispensation
without detriment to any third party, and with the consent of the
superior (Canons 86, 72).

539. A dispensation does not cease in the following cases through the
cessation of the motive for which it was given:

(a) If the motive ceases only partially or doubtfully, even though the
effect of the dispensation be divisible--that is, requiring the
existence of the motive for the grant each time the dispensation is
used. For, if the dispensation ceased in such cases, its benefit would
frequently be in great part lost on account of the worry and scruple to
which the persons dispensed would be exposed. Example: Balbus has been
dispensed from fast on account of poor health. Later on he improves,
but has not recovered his strength entirely, or at least is not certain
of his recovery. He may continue still to use the dispensation.

(b) A dispensation does not cease if the motive ceases entirely and
certainly, but the effect of the dispensation is indivisible--that is,
removing the entire obligation once for all.

Example: Titus is a widower with several young children. He wishes to
marry in order to have a home for the children, and this wish is the
motive of a dispensation given him from an impediment of affinity to
the marriage he contemplates. But before the marriage takes place, the
children die, The dispensation still holds good.

540. A dispensation does not cease by reason of the grantor in the
following cases:

(a) It does not cease through the grantor's cessation from authority,
if it was given independently of his term of office. Example:
Sempronius received a dispensation "valid until recall," but never made
use of it. Although now the grantor has died, the dispensation
continues in force.

(b) It does not cease, if the grantor invalidly recalls the
dispensation, as when he dispenses from delegated power and his
authority ceases with the act of dispensation. Example: Balbus, a
confessor, dispensed Caius from the law of abstinence, but now wishes
to recall the dispensation. The dispensation remains.

541. A dispensation does not cease on account of the person dispensed
in the following cases:

(a) It does not cease when he leaves the territory of the dispenser, if
the dispensation was personal. Example: A person dispensed from the
general law of fast by indult granted to his diocese cannot use that
dispensation outside the diocese; but if he has a personal
dispensation, he is dispensed everywhere.

(b) It does not cease when the grantee fails to use it, or acts
contrary to it, if there is no renunciation on his part. Examples:
Sempronius has been dispensed from the fast of Lent, but he fasts on
some days. This non-use of the dispensation on some days does not renew
the obligation. Balbus has received a dispensation to marry Sempronia,
but he changes his mind and marries Claudia. This act contrary to the
dispensation does not take away its force, and, if Claudia dies, he
will be free to marry Sempronia.


542. Meaning.--Just as the Church has the right and duty to make laws
which will promote the spiritual welfare of her members, so has the
State the power and obligation to legislate for the temporal happiness
of its citizens: "There is no power but from God and those that are,
are ordained of God. He (the ruler) is God's minister to thee for good"
(Rom., xiii. 1, 4).

543. Origin.--The authority to make civil laws resides in that person
or body to whom according to the constitution of the State the
legislative function belongs. (a) In an absolute monarchy, the
legislative authority is vested in the prince; (b) in a state that has
an appointed or hereditary aristocracy, the legislative power may be
entrusted, at least in part, to a body of nobles; (c) in a limited
monarchy or republic the lawmaking function belongs to the people, who
exercise it either directly or (as is the case in most modern states)
indirectly through elected representatives.

544. The acceptance of civil law by the people is not necessary for its
obligation, for obedience to higher powers is commanded (Rom., xiii,
5), and, if law has no authority, the common welfare is defeated.
Several points must, however, be noted.

(a) The foregoing principle is to be understood of law in itself, for,
if there is question of the form of government or of him who exercises
the powers of sovereignty, acceptance by the people may be said to be
necessary in the sense that the multitude may set up the particular
system of rule which it prefers, and may designate the individuals who
are to wield authority under the constitution adopted.

(b) The principle given above is to be accepted regularly speaking, for
there may be cases in which the acceptance of the people is required by
law itself. Example: Under former civil constitutions, if in a certain
place a lawful custom was in force, a contrary law which did not
expressly abolish the custom did not oblige unless accepted. But this
example is theoretical, for modern civil codes do not recognize the
derogatory force of custom. If the constitution of the state calls for
a referendum or plebiscite (i.e., submission to the electors for
ratification), then the bill passed by the legislature or a measure
proposed by the initiative body lacks force until accepted. This
illustrates acceptance of a proposed law, but the acceptance is
supplemented by some ministerial act.

(c) The principle given above is to be understood of the taking effect
of a law, for the continuance of a law may depend on the acceptance of
the people in the sense that a contrary custom of the people is able to
abrogate law, if the superior consents (see 500 sqq.). Few codes of
modern states give legal force to popular custom; they suppose that, if
a law is not satisfactory to the people, the way is open to its repeal
through exercise of the suffrage. But, morally speaking, there is no
obligation to obey a law that has fallen into desuetude.

545. As to laws made by one who has no lawful authority, we should
note: (a) of themselves, they have no binding force, since law is an
act of authority; (b) from the necessities of the case, they are
obligatory, if, being otherwise just, they are accepted by the great
body of the people; for to resist them then would be prejudicial to
public order.

546. Subject-Matter.--The objects or classes of temporal goods that
fall under the regulation of civil law are many:

(a) external goods, or goods of fortune, which should have the
protection of the State; and the laws regarding them should promote
agriculture, commerce, industry, the arts, etc.;

(b) the goods of the body, which are more important still, and hence
the law should favor the family and the increase of its members, and
should provide for the health and well-being of the citizens by
sanitary regulations and measures of relief for the needy, the
unemployed, the orphans, and the aged;

(c) the goods of the mind, which are necessary for progress and
happiness, and hence the law should provide the means for instruction
in the secular arts and sciences and for the general diffusion of
useful knowledge;

(d) the goods of the will (i.e., virtue and morality), which are most
important both to the individual and the community, and hence the law
must safeguard public decency and sobriety, and restrain and punish the
opposite crimes and vices;

(e) the social goods of the people, which are promoted by wise
legislation concerning the form and administration of government, the
mutual duties and rights of citizens, the protection of the State and
of its members, etc.

547. The relation of civil law to natural law is as follows:

(a) The State has no power to make laws that are opposed to nature,
for, since law is an ordinance according to reason, any human command
that is contrary to nature and therefore to reason is not law, but the
corruption of law. No sin, not even a venial sin, can be made
obligatory by law. Example: The rule of Sparta that sickly infants were
to be put to death was not law but legalized murder.

(b) The State has the power to declare and enforce by suitable
sanctions the conclusions that are derived from the general principles
of the law of nature; for many people might be ignorant of these
conclusions or inclined to disregard them, unless they were promulgated
and confirmed by human law. Example: The natural law requires that
parents provide for their young children, and that children assist
their needy parents; the civil law adopts these natural principles,
compels their observance, and punishes transgressors.

(c) The State has the power to make concrete and to determine the
provisions of the natural law that are abstract or general. Example:
The natural law decrees that some form of government be set up, that
the people contribute to the support of the government, that crimes be
punished, that the general welfare be served, etc.; the civil law
determines the special form of government, the manner in which the
revenues are to be obtained, the specific penalties for each crime, the
public measures that are best suited to the circumstances, etc.

548. The relation of the civil law to divine and ecclesiastical law is
as follows:

(a) In matters purely spiritual the State has no power to legislate,
since its end and authority are confined to things temporal; and hence
the State has no right to interfere with the faith, worship and
government of the Church. But, since morality promotes the prosperity
of the State, and since the end of the individual is spiritual, the
civil law should respect and favor religion.

(b) In matters that are partly spiritual, partly temporal, the State
has the power to legislate on those aspects that are temporal, yet so
as not to infringe on divine or ecclesiastical right. Example: Civil
laws on education have the right to regulate non-religious subjects,
courses, standards, etc.; but they have no right to proscribe religious
training, or to prescribe the teaching of irreligion or immorality,
State laws on marriage may require registration, settle the civil
effects of marriage, etc., but they have no right to interfere with the
unity of marriage or the sanctity of the marriage bond.

549. The State is for the individual, and not the individual for the
State; hence, civil law should not interfere with human liberties,
except where this is necessary for the common peace and safety or the
lawful opportunity of the people as a whole. Hence:

(a) Human liberties that are not inalienable may be limited by the law,
when the public good or the welfare of individuals requires this (see
292). Examples: The State has the right to regulate the acts of those
who are unable to take care of themselves in matters of importance; to
forbid what is detrimental to the common interest (such as hunting and
fishing at certain seasons), to protect the public when it neglects to
protect itself, etc. Uncalled-for interference by government with the
personal and private affairs of individuals--paternalism in
government--is of course to be avoided, for restriction of liberty is
something disagreeable and should not be resorted to without necessity.

(b) Human rights that are fundamental (such as the rights to live, to
marry, to rear a family, to be free, to pursue happiness) should not be
trespassed on by civil law. Thus, the State has no right to forbid
marriage to the poor, but on the contrary it has the duty to remove
conditions that cause poverty. But, when the common welfare demands the
sacrifice, the State has the right to call on citizens to expose even
life and fortune in its defense.

550. Those Subject to Civil Law.--Civil laws oblige all those who are
in any way subject to their authority.

(a) Citizens, when in the country, are bound by all the laws that
pertain to them; when outside the country, they are bound by some laws,
such as those that regulate their personal status and office, but not
by others, in particular such as are of a territorial character.

(b) Aliens are bound by the laws of the country that include them, such
as those that regulate public order and the making of contracts.

551. The Obligation of Civil Law.--Civil law, when it has all the
conditions of valid law, even if the legislator is non-religious or
anti-religious, is obligatory not only before the State, but also
before God (i.e., in conscience). This is; (a) by reason of the natural
law, of which it is a derivation (see above, 313); (b) by reason of
divine positive law, for it is frequently declared in scripture and in
the Church's teaching and practice that lawful authority represents God
and must be obeyed for conscience' sake: "Render to Caesar the things
that are Caesar's" (Matt, xxii 21), "Be subject of necessity, not only
for wrath, but also for conscience' sake" (Rom, xiii. 5).

552. Are subjects obliged to offer themselves for punishment prescribed
by law?

(a) If the fault committed was merely juridical (i.e., before the law),
the penalty is certainly not obligatory before sentence. Example:
Balbus through sheer accident, and without design or negligence, kills
a man. If involuntary homicide is punished by imprisonment, Balbus is
not bound to give himself up. English common law, it should be noted,
presumes a man innocent until proved guilty, and a man cannot be
convicted of any degree of homicide on his own confession alone. But he
may plead guilty to minor offenses.

(b) If the fault committed was theological (i.e., before God) and the
penalty is primitive (i.e., the loss of some right or privilege), the
penalty is obligatory in conscience. In Canon Law such penalties are
sometimes _ipso facto_, that is, before sentence (e.g., suspension of a
cleric); but the civil law, it seems, imposes penalties only after
judicial declaration. Example: Titus on account of bribery has
forfeited the right to vote; but he has not been declared guilty by
court, and hence may continue to use the right of suffrage.

(c) If the fault was theological and the penalty incurred is active
(e.g., exile, imprisonment, fine), the penalty is not obligatory before
sentence; for it would demand too much of human nature to require that
one deliver oneself up to exile, accept confiscation, etc. The
apprehension and detention of the guilty is imposed by law as a duty on
the police and other officers, not on the guilty.

553. The kind of obligation imposed depends on the will of the
lawgiver: (a) he can oblige under pain of sin, or under pain of nullity
or punishment; (b) he can oblige under pain of grave sin, or under pain
of venial sin.

554. Generally speaking, the legislator is held to oblige under pain of
sin in the following cases: (a) when the law is a just determination of
the natural law (e.g., the laws that determine ownership); (b) when the
law is directly concerned with and necessary to the public good (e.g.,
laws on national defense in time of war, laws that impose necessary
taxation, etc.; see above, 379).

555. The legislator is held not to oblige under sin in the following
cases: (a) when the law is enacted as penal, or is prudently regarded
as such--as is the case with laws that are of minor importance or that
can be enforced without a moral obligation--laws useful rather than
necessary; (b) when the law is merely irritant or inhabilitating, the
subject is not obliged to omit the act invalidated, but only to suffer
the consequence of nullity before the law.

556. In doubt as to the obligation of a law, what is the duty of the
subject? (a) If there is doubt concerning its justice, the subject can
always observe it with a safe conscience. One may obey an unjust law,
until it is judicially declared unjust, if it is not manifestly opposed
to divine or human rights. (b) If there is doubt whether a law obliges
under sin or not, the subject does not sin directly by non-observance
(see 375, 376, 377, 561).

557. Special Kinds of Laws.--Laws that determine ownership are those
that define in distinct and explicit terms the rights of citizens as to
property, in such matters as goods lost or found, prescription,
inheritance, copyright, distribution of property of intestates, rights
of wives, capacity of minors, contracts, etc. It is commonly held that
these laws are obligatory under sin, even before judicial decision: (a)
because they are determinations of the natural law made by the
authority that represents God in matters temporal; (b) because they are
necessary for the peaceful existence of society.

558. Irritant or voiding laws are those that deprive certain acts of
legal value. The common welfare requires that certain acts, even if
valid naturally, may be made invalid by the State (e.g., contracts
entered into by minors, donations made under fear, wills devised
irregularly), and hence there is no doubt that the effect of
invalidation can be imposed under pain of sin.

(a) This holds even before judicial decision, if it is clear that the
lawgiver ought to intend and does intend to deprive an act of its moral
validity from the beginning. Example: If a lawsuit would put one party
(e.g., a minor) under great disadvantage, the law can irritate a
contract in conscience and before judgment is rendered.

(b) An irritant law does not oblige under sin before declaration of
nullity, if it is not clear that the legislator intended this; for it
can be presumed that the State is content with external means as long
as these are sufficient for its ends; and, since invalidation of acts
is odious, it calls for certain expression of his intention by the
lawgiver. But after sentence has been given, that which is civilly null
is also null morally. Hence, if the courts declare a will to be of no
effect, because it was not drawn legally, the decision is binding under

559. Civil lawgivers in modern times do not, as a rule, concern
themselves with moral or natural obligation as such, but rather
consider only what regulations will best promote the peaceful
intercourse of society. Hence, the question whether a civil irritation
obliges in conscience ipso facto (i.e., before judicial declaration of
a case) has to be decided generally, not from the words, but from the
purpose of the law.

(a) An irritant law should be regarded as obligatory _ipso facto_, when
the general purpose of law (viz., the common good) or the specific
purpose of this law requires that there should be obligation in
conscience even before a court decision. Examples are laws irritating
agreements to do what is illegal, laws whose purpose is to protect
minors or others who would be at a disadvantage in case of litigation,
or to lessen the number of cases before the courts.

(b) An irritant law should be regarded as not obligatory _ipso facto_,
when the end of the law does not clearly demand obligation before
judicial declaration; for, as remarked above, the invalidation of an
act is something odious, and hence not to be taken for granted. Thus,
laws that void an act, contract or instrument on account of lack of
some legal form, do not affect the natural rights or obligations before

560. Though the civil lawgiver has the right to annul certain acts, and
thus to extinguish moral rights or obligations that would otherwise
exist, laws seemingly irritant frequently have a different intention.

(a) Laws that make a claim unenforceable in court do not destroy the
natural right of the claimant. Example: The Statute of Limitations in
modern states generally bars the right to pursue a debtor in court
after six years; nevertheless, the moral obligation of the debtor

(b) Laws that make an act or contract voidable do not nullify, but only
grant to the person concerned the right to attack validity before the
courts. Hence, if the conditions for valid contract required by natural
law are present (knowledge, consent, etc.), moral rights and
obligations are not voided. Example: Under the civil law some contracts
made by minors may be retracted by them. But, as long as such a
contract is not disavowed, the other party has a moral right to insist
on its execution; if it has been ratified after majority, the former
minor has no moral right to seek the benefit of the law by asking for

561. With reference to penalty, four kinds of laws can be distinguished.

(a) Purely preceptive laws are such as oblige under pain of sin, but
not under pain of punishment. There are church laws of this kind (such
as the command to assist at Mass on Sunday), and there are also some
civil laws that do not oblige under penalty (e.g., statutes governing
the age for legal marriage, for, if a couple misrepresented their age,
they might be prosecuted for the misrepresentation, but not for the act
of marriage).

(b) Purely penal laws are such as oblige under pain of juridical fault
and punishment, but not under pain of sin (e.g., a law that punishes
negligence in driving as defined by itself, even though there be no
moral culpability involved).

(c) Mixed laws disjunctively are such as oblige under sin either to
obey the law or to suffer the penalty (e.g., a law that commands one
either to get a license before fishing or hunting, or to pay a fine if
caught doing these things without a license).

(d) Mixed laws conjunctively are such as oblige under pain of both sin
and punishment (e.g., the laws that forbid injustice and command the
punishment of transgressors).

562. There is no question about the existence of laws of the first and
fourth classes just described, but some authorities argue against the
existence of the other two classes, maintaining that a law that does
not oblige in conscience is an impossibility. They argue: (a) the
teaching of scripture and of the Church supposes that all just laws
oblige in conscience; (b) the lawgiver holds the place of God, and
hence one cannot offend against the law of man without offending God;
(c) human law, being only a reaffirmation or determination of the
higher law, obliges in conscience like the law on which it is based;
(d) directions of a superior that do not oblige under sin are counsels
rather than laws.

563. To these and similar arguments the defenders of the existence of
penal laws reply: (a) such laws do not oblige in conscience, under pain
of sin and of offense to God, to do or to omit as the law prescribes,
just as a vow which gives one the option of not playing cards, or else
of giving each time an alms, does not bind one in conscience not to
play cards; (b) but those laws do oblige one in conscience to respect
their juridical value, not to resist their enforcement, and to pay the
penalty of violation, just as the vow mentioned obliges one in
conscience to give an alms each time one plays cards. The Church
recognizes penal laws (see 450), and there is no reason why civil law
may not be penal.

564. Even when the transgression of a purely penal law is not sinful by
reason of the civil law, it will frequently, if not usually, be sinful
by reason of repugnance to the law of God. Thus: (a) the transgression
will be sinful, if there is a wrong intention (such as contempt for the
law) or wrong circumstances (such as culpable neglect or some
inordinate passion); (b) the transgression will be sinful, if one
foresees or should foresee evil consequences, such as scandal (see 96).

565. It is generally admitted that some civil laws are purely penal,
since they impose penalties for fault, negligence, or responsibility
that is only juridical at times. Examples: A law that imposes a fine on
all motorists caught driving over a certain speed limit, even though
they be free of moral guilt; or that makes the owner of a car pay
damages for injuries caused while it was used by his chauffeur.

566. Even these laws oblige under sin to some extent. (a) The
transgressor is morally bound to the penalty prescribed by law, after
sentence has been passed; and such penalties are just, for the common
good requires them. Example: The speed violator is held to pay the
lawful fine when it has been imposed. He may have been guiltless of
sin, but the fine makes him more careful the next time. (b) The
officers of the law are morally bound to apprehend and convict

567. Many civil laws are commonly regarded nowadays as disjunctively
preceptive or penal; and, since the custom of the prudent affords a
good norm of interpretation (see above, 484 sqq., 506 sqq.), this
common view is a safe guide, Example: Even conscientious persons do not
feel that they have committed a sin if now and then they run a car
without a license, or fish in a government reservation without the
permit required by law, when there is no danger or damage to anyone.

568. Whether most modern legislatures intend practically all or the
great majority of their laws that are not declarations of natural law
or provisions essential to public welfare to be purely penal or only
disjunctively preceptive, is a disputed question. For the affirmative
view it is argued:

(a) Moral obligation is not necessary, since the enforcement of the law
is well taken care of by the judiciary and the police;

(b) Moral obligation would be harmful, for the laws that are put on the
statute books every year, along with those already there, are so
numerous that, if all these obliged in conscience, an intolerable
burden would be placed on the people;

(c) Moral obligation is not intended, for legislatures as bodies either
despise or disregard religious motives when framing laws; and so many
jurists today believe that the danger of incurring the penalty
prescribed by the law is the only obligation the lawgiver intends to
impose, or that moral obligation must come from conscience (i.e., be

(d) Moral obligation is not admitted by custom, the best interpreter of
law, for most citizens today regard civil legislation as not binding
under sin.

569. Opponents of the view just explained answer:

(a) The prevalence of crime and the ineffectiveness of the courts in so
many places prove the need of moral obligation of civil laws; and, even
if the laws are well enforced, this will scarcely continue, if respect
for them is lowered;

(b) Though there is an excess of legislation, it is not generally true
that the individual citizen is burdened in his daily life by a
multitude of laws;

(c) Lawmakers today are not more irreligious than the pagan rulers to
whom the scriptures commanded obedience; and, even though they do not
themselves believe in religion or the obligation of conscience, they do
intend to give their laws every sanction that the common good requires,
and thus implicitly they impose a moral obligation wherever the
contrary is not manifest;

(d) The statement that the majority of the people in modern states
regard the civil legislation as a whole as not obligatory in conscience
may be passed over, as there is no proof for it. Moreover, the
customary interpretation of the citizens does not make penal the laws
which the elected representatives intended as preceptive, without the
consent of the latter (see 394).

570. Signs that a law is merely penal are the following:

(a) The express declaration of the lawgiver that it obliges only under
penalty. Examples: In the Dominican Constitutions it is declared that
they oblige, not under fault, but only under penalty (No. 32). The same
is true of the Franciscan, Redemptorist and most recent religious
Constitutions. Some civil laws, it is said, are formulated thus:
"Either do this, or pay the penalty on conviction." Other laws define
punishable negligence in such a way that it does not ultimately suppose

(b) Another sign of a penal law is the implicit declaration of the
lawgiver. If a heavy penalty is prescribed for a transgression regarded
by all as very slight proportionately, the government implicitly
declares that it imposes no other obligation than that of penalty.
Blackstone, in his "Commentary on the Laws of England" (1769),
considers as purely penal all those laws in which the penalty inflicted
is an adequate compensation for the civil inconvenience supposed to
arise from the offense, such as the statutes for preserving game and
those forbidding the exercise of trades without serving an
apprenticeship thereto (Vol. I, Sect. 58).

(c) A third sign is the interpretation of competent authorities.
Example: Practically all Catholic moralists, and the opinion of the
people generally, consider as penal some laws that are merely useful,
but not necessary (e.g., prohibitions against smoking or spitting in
certain public places, laws on permits for fishing, hunting, etc.).

571. Whatever may be said about legislatures in general, it cannot be
argued that in the United States they are indifferent or contemptuous
as regards the moral obligation of law; the public acts and speeches of
Congress and of the State Assemblies show that the elected
representatives of the people respect religion, and do not wish to
deprive themselves of its help in their deliberations and decisions.
Nevertheless, the opinion is very prevalent among lawyers that purely
positive law in the United States is not intended to oblige under sin.

572. In practice, the attitude of the citizen to civil law should be
one of respect and loyalty.

(a) If a law is good, even though the legislator did not impose a moral
obligation, it should be obeyed; for reason and experience show that
disregard for law is a source of scandal and of many public and private

(b) If a law is not good, every lawful means should be used to have it
repealed as soon as possible. But the principle that a bad law is
always best overcome by being rigidly enforced, is not borne out by
history, and sometimes the public good demands disregard for
unreasonable ordinances. The so-called "Blue Laws" are a case in point.

573. Other questions pertaining to civil law that will be found
elsewhere are: (a) the obligation of customs, taxation and military
duty; (b) the power of the State to inflict capital punishment.

Question IV


574. In order that man many tend to his Last End, it is not sufficient
that the way be pointed out in a general manner (as is done by the
natural and positive laws), but these laws must be applied to each act
in particular by the practical reason or conscience, as it passes
judgment on the right or wrong of an action in the light of all the


(_Summa Theologica_, I, q. 79, aa. 11-13.)

575. Definition.--Conscience is an act of judgment on the part of the
practical reason deciding by inference from general principles the
moral goodness or malice of a particular act.

(a) It is an act, and as such it differs from moral knowledge and
intellectual virtues, which are not transitory but enduring. Moral
understanding (synderesis), by which everyone naturally perceives the
truth of general and self-evident principles of morality; moral
science, by which the theologian or ethician knows the body of
conclusions drawn from moral principles; prudence, by which the
virtuous man is able to make right applications of moral rules to
individual cases--all these are permanent states and are preparatory to
the act of conscience, in which one makes use of one's knowledge to
judge of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an action in the concrete,
as attended by all its circumstances.

(b) Conscience is an act of judgment, and thus it differs from the
other acts employed by prudence--from counsel about the right means or
ways of action, and from command as to their use. Counsel inquires what
is the right thing to do, conscience gives the dictate or decision, the
moral command moves to action.

(c) Conscience is in the reason--that is, it is a subjective guide, and
thus it differs from law, which is objective.

(d) Conscience is in the practical reason. Unlike other judgments,
which are speculative and deal not with action or only with theoretical
aspects of action (e.g., the judgment that God is perfect, that the
active faculties are distinct from the soul, etc.), conscience is
concerned with action from the view-point of its moral exercise.

(e) Conscience is the inference from general principles, and thus it
differs from moral understanding (synderesis). This latter is a habit
by which everyone who is mentally developed is able to perceive without
argument that certain more general propositions of morality must be
true, such as the axioms of the natural law (see above, 319 sqq.);
conscience draws conclusions from those axioms.

(f) Conscience judges concerning the morality of an act. Here lies the
difference between consciousness and conscience; consciousness is a
psychological faculty whose function is to perceive one's own states
and acts; conscience is a moral judgment concerning the lawfulness or
unlawfulness of those states or acts. Thus, consciousness testifies
that one is considering the performance of a certain act, conscience
judges the morality, and permits or forbids; or consciousness testifies
that a certain thing was done or not done in the past, conscience
declares the morality--condemning, excusing, or approving what took

(g) Conscience judges concerning a particular act--that is, it
considers an act that is to be done here and now (or was done), with
all the attendant circumstances. Conscience, thus, differs from moral
science, which, though it systematizes the body of conclusions drawn
from the natural and positive laws, is not able to make the
applications for the innumerable cases that arise. Even works
containing moral cases, which give solutions for concrete instances, do
not take the place of conscience in such instances, for it is still the
individual who judges about those solutions or about their
applicability to his particular circumstances.

576. Division.-Conscience is variously divided. (a) According as the
act judged is in the future or in the past, conscience is antecedent or
consequent. The antecedent conscience is a monitor which decides that a
future act will be lawful or unlawful; the consequent conscience is a
judge which causes peace or remorse for what has been done in the past.
(b) According to the kind of direction or decision it gives, antecedent
conscience is commanding, forbidding, permitting or counselling; while
consequent conscience is excusing, approving, or condemning (Rom., ii.

577. According as it agrees or disagrees with the external divine or
human law, conscience is true or false. (a) A true conscience judges
that to be good and commanded which is really good and commanded.
Example: According to law, one may use money of which one has the
disposal. A sum of money before Balbus is really at his disposal.
Hence, his conscience is true if it decides that he may use this money.

(b) A false conscience judges the lawful to be unlawful, or vice versa:
"The hour cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth a
service to God" (John, xvi. 2). Example: Balbus would have a false
conscience, if he decided that he had no right to use the money before
him. This would happen if he was mistaken about the general principle,
or about the fact that the money was at his disposal, or if he drew a
wrong inference from the premises.

578. According to its qualities and suitability as a guide of conduct,
conscience may be viewed either with reference to the will or to the
intellect. (a) With reference to the will, conscience is either good
(right) or bad (wrong), according as it does or does not proceed from a
well-meaning intention and a right disposition towards one's end and
duties. Example: If the Balbus mentioned above decided that the money
was at his disposal because he wished to know the truth and had
investigated to the best of his ability, his conscience would be good.
But, if he decided this without sufficient investigation and only
because he was prejudiced in his own favor, his conscience would be bad.

(b) With reference to the intellect, conscience is either certain or
uncertain, according as the mind assents to its judgment without or
with fear of error. Examples: If Balbus decides that he has the right
to use the money, and is so firmly convinced that his judgment is true
that he has no fears or doubts, his conscience is certain. But, if
there remain solid difficulties or objections against his judgment
which he cannot satisfactorily answer so that he assents to his view
only with the fear that he may be wrong, his conscience is uncertain.

579. A conscience may have some and lack others of the qualities just

(a) The same conscience may be true and bad, or false and good--that
is, the judgment of the intellect may be in agreement with objective
facts, but at the same time it may be directed by a wrong will and
intention, or vice versa. Examples: Caius, through no fault of his own,
is convinced that he is bound to tell a lie to help Sempronius, because
Sempronius once helped him by lying. His conscience is false, but good.
Titus is really not bound to pay a sum of money demanded of him. But
the arguments by which he persuades himself that he is not bound are
not honest, since he has recourse to what he knows are hair-splitting
distinctions, quibbles and sophistical reasonings. His conscience is
true, but bad.

(b) The same conscience may be good and uncertain, or bad and certain.
Examples: If the Caius above-mentioned believes he is bound to lie, but
has some qualms or suspicions that such conduct might not be right
after all, his conscience would be good, seeing that he meant to do
what is right; but it would be uncertain, seeing that he is not sure he
is right. If the Titus above-mentioned had so habituated himself to
insincerity and illogical reasoning that he no longer had any fears
about his own judgments, and gave firm and unhesitating assent to his
decision that he was not bound to pay the money demanded, his
conscience, though bad, would be certain subjectively.

580. Obligation of Conscience.--Man is bound to be guided by
conscience, both negatively and positively--that is, he must neither
disobey when it forbids, nor refuse to obey when it commands.

(a) It obliges by reason of divine command, since it acts as the voice
or witness of God making known and promulgating. to us the moral law.
Hence "all that is not from conscience is sin" (Rom, xiv. 23).

(b) Conscience obliges from the nature of things, for, since the will
is a blind faculty, it must be guided by the judgment, of the
intellect, and must follow the inner light given it about the law.
Apart from revelation, there is no other way of learning what God
wishes one to do here and now.

581. The authority of conscience is not, however, unlimited.

(a) Conscience is not independent of external law and authority. It is
not autonomous morality of the reason or will, nor private inspiration
or interpretation; for its function is not to establish law or pass
judgment on it, but to apply the law as expounded by the Church to a
present case. Hence, conscience must aim to be true--that is, to agree
with and express the objective law.

(b) Conscience is not independent of the righteousness of the will. It
is not a speculative judgment, whose value depends solely on agreement
between the mind and the facts, as is the case with a conclusion of
pure science. It is a practical judgment, which has to guide all man's
conduct, and thus its value depends on the relation of the means it
selects to the end towards which the means should be directed. Hence,
conscience must be good--that is, a judgment dictated by a will well
disposed towards the true end of life.

(c) Conscience is not independent of the certainty of the intellect. It
is a judgment formed, not by sentiment, emotion, or one's own wishes,
but by evidence and firm conviction; for its office is to guide man
reliably in the most important of affairs. Hence, conscience must be
certain--that is, a judgment to which the intellect yields its
unhesitating assent.

582. In order, therefore, that conscience may be the proper rule and
moderator of man's moral life, it must have the following qualities:

(a) It must be good, and practically true--that is, in agreement with
the Last End of man and, as far as the efforts of the individual can
attain to such agreement, with the objective law--for the standard of
moral good is not each one's wish or opinion, but God as the Last End
and the external natural and positive law as means to that End.

(b) It must be certain--that is, without fear that one is wrong; at
least, it must have that degree of certainty which is possible in moral
matters. For to act with the fear that one is committing sin, is to be
willing to do what may be sin, and is thus consent to sin.

583. Since conscience that has the requisite conditions is our
immediate guide in moral matters, it follows: (a) that a conscience
which is true objectively, good, and certain must be followed, whenever
it commands or forbids; (b) that a conscience which is in invincible
error (see 30), but seems to him who has it to be not only true but
certain, must also be followed when it forbids or commands. Examples:
If a child were told and believed that he was obliged to tell a lie to
prevent an evil, he would be bound to do this. If a person eats what he
wrongly thinks to be forbidden food, he is guilty of the violation he

584. Exception.--If invincible error results from lack of sufficient
intelligence to be capable of sin (see above, 249, 387), then the
failure to follow one's conscience in such error does not make one
guilty. Example: If a person unable to walk were persuaded that he was
bound nevertheless to walk to church for Mass, his conscience would not
make his omission sinful. Conscience supposes sane judgment, but the
judgment we are now considering is not sane.

585. A conscience that has not the requisite conditions is not a safe
guide, and hence it cannot be followed.

(a) An erroneous conscience may not be followed, if the error is
vincible and there is danger of sin; neither may one act against it if
there be danger of sin. To follow such a conscience would be to do what
is wrong and to act in bad faith (i.e., to have a bad and erroneous
conscience); not to follow it, would be to act against one's judgment,
wrongly formed though it was, and to do insincerely what is right
(i.e., to have a bad, though true conscience). Example: A person who
has made up his mind that dishonesty is necessary in his business, but
who realizes that his reasons are not convincing, sins against
sincerity if he follows his opinion; he sins against conviction, if he
does not follow his opinion. But his predicament is due to his own
sophistry or bad will, and the escape from it requires only that he be
honest enough with himself to inquire about the matter.

(b) A doubtful conscience may not be followed, if the doubt is such
that one is not reasonably sure that a certain act is lawful. Example:
If a man does not know whether a certain remedy will be helpful or
seriously harmful to another, his conscience is doubtful as to the
lawfulness of administering the remedy, and it may not be followed. If
in spite of this he makes use of the remedy, he is guilty of the harm
he foresaw, even though it does not happen.

586. Exception.--It is lawful to follow a vincibly erroneous
conscience, if there is no danger of sin in this. Example: If a person
has neglected inquiry about holydays of obligation, and through his own
neglect believes that Good Friday is a holyday, he does not sin by
attending the services that day.

587. The signs of a vincibly erroneous conscience are: (a) that in the
past one did not use the same diligence to inform oneself about one's
religious duties as is employed by conscientious persons; (b) that in
the present one has fears, doubts or suspicions as to one's own
sincerity of judgment.

588. Results of Conscience.--The results of following an erroneous
conscience are as follows:

(a) He who follows an erroneous conscience, commanding or forbidding or
permitting, is not guilty of sin if his ignorance is invincible.
Example: A child who thinks he is obliged to lie because he has been
told to do this, is excused from sin on account of his ignorance.

(b) He who follows an erroneous conscience, commanding or permitting
evil, is guilty if his ignorance is vincible. Example: A grown person
who has persuaded himself that deception is lawful, obligatory or
advisable, or that truthfulness is forbidden, but who ought to know
better, is not excused by the conscience he has formed (see above, 97

589. The results of disobeying an erroneous conscience are as follows:

(a) He who disobeys an invincibly erroneous conscience, is guilty.
Example: The child who refuses to tell a lie when he thinks he ought to
do so because it has been commanded, is guilty of disobedience.

(b) He who disobeys a vincibly erroneous conscience, is also guilty.
Example: Caius promises to tell a lie to help another party. The doubt
occurs whether or not this is lawful, and he takes no pains to settle
it correctly, but decides offhand that a promise must be kept. When the
time comes, Caius becomes alarmed and does not keep his promise, lest
he get into trouble. He is guilty.

590. If a conscience which was vincibly erroneous in its origin is here
and now invincibly erroneous, the acts that result from following such
a conscience are to be judged as follows:

(a) They are materially evil in themselves and formally evil in their
cause. Example: Titus, who intends to take a position in which he will
have to advise others, foresees that later on he may make mistakes
costly to others, as a result of his present lack of sufficient study.
He secures the position, and tries to make up for former neglect of
study, but on one occasion injures a patron by wrong advice which he
would not have given, had he worked more faithfully as a younger
student. The wrong advice is objectively sinful in itself, as being an
injury; it is subjectively sinful in its cause, as being the result of
negligence which foresaw what might happen.

(b) The acts in question are not formally evil in themselves. Example:
Titus was formally guilty of injury to others at the time he foresaw
what would happen on account of his negligence; he was not formally
guilty at the time he did the injury, because he had tried meanwhile to
repair his negligence and was not conscious of his ignorance.

591. The kinds of sin committed in consequence of an erroneous
conscience are as follows:

(a) Sin committed by following a vincibly erroneous conscience is of
the same gravity and species as the act for which the conscience is
responsible, but the ignorance is an extenuating circumstance. Example:
He who blinds his conscience so that it decides in favor of grave
calumny, is guilty of mortal sin against justice; but he is less guilty
than if he had sinned without any permission from conscience.

(b) Sin committed by disobeying an invincibly erroneous conscience is
of the gravity and species apprehended by the conscience. Example: A
person who tells a small lie, thinking it a mortal sin against charity,
is guilty of the malice he understands to be in his act.

(c) Sin committed by disobeying a vincibly erroneous conscience is of
the species that was perceived. Example: Caius who did not live up to
his promise of telling a lie, after he had decided that to keep his
word was the right thing to do, was guilty of a breach of promise. As
to the gravity of sin against a vincibly erroneous conscience, it is
always the same as that apprehended by the conscience, unless what is
seriously wrong is culpably mistaken for what is only slightly wrong.
Examples: If Caius, just referred to, thought that his desertion of his
friend inflicted a grave injury, he was guilty of grave sin. A person
who persuades himself by vain reasonings that complete intoxication
does not differ in gravity from incipient intoxication, is nevertheless
guilty of the greater malice, if he puts himself in the former state;
for his wrong opinion cannot change the fact, and his culpable
ignorance cannot excuse him.

592. An erroneous conscience may apprehend something not wrong as
wrong, but in an indeterminate manner.

(a) If the species of evil is not determinate before the conscience,
but an indifferent act is thought to be sinful without any definite
species of sin being thought of, he who acts against such a conscience
seems to commit a sin of disobedience. Example: A person who thinks
that smoking is a sin, of what kind he does not know, must have at
least vaguely the opinion that it is forbidden by the divine law; and
hence, if he smokes, he is guilty of disobedience.

(b) If the gravity of the putative sin is not determinate before the
conscience, but an act is thought to be sinful without the degree of
sinfulness being at all known or thought of, he who acts against such a
conscience commits a mortal or a venial sin according to his own
disposition with respect to sin. If he is so attached to the sin he
apprehends that he intends to commit it, whether it be great or small,
he is guilty of mortal sin, at least in so far as he exposes himself to
it. But if he is habitually resolved not to commit grave sin, it can be
presumed that he would not do that which he apprehends as sinful, if he
thought it was a grave offense, Example: If a person erroneously thinks
that it is a sin to read a certain book, and then reads it without
adverting at all to the gravity of the sin he apprehends, his greater
or less guilt will have to be judged by his character. If he is so
conscientious that he would stop reading at once if he feared the book
was seriously harmful, he sins only venially; but if he knows that he
is lax and is yet resolved to read the book at all costs, it seems that
he is guilty of grave sin.


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, q. 19, aa. 5, 6.)

593. As was explained in the previous article, conscience is not a
proper guide unless it is good. In this article we shall speak of the
good conscience and of its opposite the various kinds of bad conscience.

594. Definition.--The distinction of good and bad conscience is applied
both to consequent and antecedent conscience (see 576).

(a) The consequent conscience is good, and one is said to have a good
conscience, if it testifies that past acts were rightly performed, that
past sins were forgiven, that one is in the friendship of God, etc.;
"The end of the commandment is charity from a good conscience" (I Tim.,
i. 5); "War a good warfare, having faith and a good conscience" (ibid.,
19). The consequent conscience is bad if it testifies in a contrary
way: "Let us draw near with a true heart, having our hearts sprinkled
from an evil conscience" (Heb., x. 22).

(b) The antecedent conscience, with which we are now concerned, judges
about the morality of an act to be performed here and now, or in the
future. It is called good, if it is made by one who is in good
faith--that is, one who sincerely loves goodness and who decides
according to the truth as far as he is able to see it. It is called
bad, if it is the judgment of one who is in bad faith--that is, one who
is in error through his own fault, or who arrives at the truth by
reasonings that are not honest or not understood by him. Example:
Speaking of those who, though fearing that idol meats were forbidden,
yet ate of them because they saw others do this, St. Paul says: "There
is not knowledge in everyone. For some until this present, with
conscience of the idol, eat as a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their
conscience being weak is defiled" (I Cor., viii. 7).

595. Divisions.--By training and care a good conscience is developed
and becomes better. (a) A vigilant conscience is one that asserts
itself promptly and strongly under all circumstances. (b) A tender
conscience is one that inclines to a careful observance of all the
Commandments and to a purification of the inner workings of the soul. A
possessor of this kind of conscience is called conscientious. (c) A
timorous conscience moves one through filial fear to shun even the
slightest sins and imperfections, and to use all prudent efforts to
avoid occasions and dangers of sin. The possessor of this kind of
conscience is called God-fearing.

596. A bad conscience that is in vincible error is divided according to
its effects into the scrupulous and the lax conscience. (a) The lax
conscience errs on the side of liberty. It is moved by trivial reasons
to judge the unlawful to be lawful, the gravely sinful to be only
slightly evil, that which is commanded to be only counselled, and so on.

(b) The scrupulous conscience errs on the side of obligation. It is
moved by trivial reasons to judge that there is sin in something
lawful, grave sin in something venially wrong, and obligation in
something that is only counselled; it sees inhability or defect where
these do not exist, and so on.

597. The Lax Conscience.--According to the more or less control it has
over one, the lax conscience may be divided into the incipient and the
habitual. (a) It is incipient when one is becoming familiar with
careless decisions and less responsive to remorse about evil done. In
this state the conscience is said to be sleeping. (b) It is habitual
when through long-continued habit one has become enamored of a worldly,
frivolous conception of life, and is rarely visited by compunction. In
its worst state, when there is little hope of cure, a lax conscience is
said to be seared or cauterized (I Tim., iv. 2).

598. According to the greater or less responsibility of the one in
error, a lax conscience is either malicious or not malicious. (a) It is
malicious when it results from one's own disregard for religious truth,
as in the case of the pagans who did not care to know God, and were
thus led into perverse conceptions of morality. St. Paul calls such a
conscience a reprobate sense (Rom., i. 28). (b) It is not malicious
when it results from some less blamable reason, as in the case of the
Christians at Corinth who thought that the eating of idol meats was
sinful, but that it was to be practised on account of the example of
others. St. Paul calls this a weak conscience (I Cor., viii. 10).

599. Laxity of conscience is either partial or entire. (a) A conscience
entirely lax takes an easy and indulgent view in all things. It is
careless both in little and great matters, both in directing self and
in directing others. (b) A conscience partially lax is too liberal in
some things, but not in others. Examples: Titus is very exacting with
his girls, and wishes to have them models of virtue; but he is too easy
with himself and his boys. Balbus is very loyal to friends, but has no
sense of justice as regards those who do not agree with him. Sempronius
tries to serve both God and mammon, being very faithful to church
duties, but at the same time dishonest in business matters.

600. A conscience partially lax may even combine scrupulosity and
laxism (see 610), becoming like a mirror that reflects large objects as
small and vice versa; or like a color-blind eye: "Woe to you that call
evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for
darkness" (Is., V. 20). This kind of conscience is called pharisaical.

(a) One may be lax and scrupulous about the same kind of things.
Examples: Caius regards great disobedience in himself as a mote which
he doesn't need to worry about, but small disobedience in his children
as a beam in the eye which he is seriously bound to extract (Matt, vii.
3-5). Titus is lax about almsgiving to those from whom he can expect
nothing, but scrupulous about almsgiving to those from whom he expects
a return later on.

(b) One may be scrupulous and lax about different things, straining at
gnats and swallowing camels. Example: The Pharisees were scrupulous
about external observances and minor things of the law, such as tithes;
but they were lax about inward justice and the weightier things of the
law, judgment, mercy and faith (Matt, xxiii. 13-31).

601. Causes of a Lax Conscience.--(a) If the laxity is inculpable but
habitual, it is caused generally by lack of Christian training in
childhood and the influence of evil principles and practices that are
widespread. In particular cases a lax decision of conscience may be due
to want of sufficient consideration or to a sudden storm of passion
that obscures the reason, when one has no time for deliberation; and
thus it is inculpable.

(b) If the laxity is culpable, its usual causes are an easy-going view
of God's law and its obligation (Is, xliii. 24); or a self-love that
sees in one's vices nothing but virtue or amiable weakness; or a
long-continued indulgence of sin that has destroyed all refinement of

602. Special Dangers of a Lax Conscience.--(a) If the laxity is
inculpable, it is an occasion of demoralization to others and a
preparation for formal sin in him who has the conscience;

(b) if the laxity is culpable, it is the cause of formal sin; and if it
is not corrected, it naturally leads to moral blindness, hardness of
heart and impenitence: "There is a way that seemeth to man right, and
the ends thereof lead to death" (Proverbs, xvi. 25).

603. Since a lax conscience is a species of erroneous conscience, the
rules given above as to the kind of sins committed in consequence of an
erroneous conscience, apply also to the lax conscience (see above, 588

(a) When the laxity is concerned with the existence of sin, the
conscience taking what is sinful for something lawful, he who follows
such a conscience is guilty or not guilty according as his ignorance is
culpable or inculpable (i.e., as he acts from a bad or a good
conscience). Examples: The man who practises dishonesty, because he has
cheated his conscience by sophistry into deciding that dishonesty is
lawful; the child who uses profane language without realization of sin,
because he hears his elders use it. But if the lax conscience takes
what is sinful for a duty, he who disobeys it is guilty of sin.
Example: The person who refuses to tell a lie when he thinks he ought
to lie on account of a promise made.

(b) When the laxity is concerned with the gravity of sin, the
conscience taking what is mortal for venial sin, he who disobeys such a
conscience is guilty of mortal or venial sin, according as his
ignorance is culpable or inculpable (i.e., as he acts from a bad or a
good conscience). Examples: A child who thinks that calumny or missing
Mass is only a venial sin, because he sees grown up persons treat these
things lightly; a person that, to solace his conscience, advises with
lax associates who always approve of what he wishes to do or has done.

604. He who knows, or who has good reason to think, that his conscience
is lax, should guide himself by the following rules: (a) with reference
to the past, if there is a doubt whether or not sin was consented to or
was grave, the presumption is against him, for laxity willingly
contracted makes one responsible for what ensues; (b) with reference to
the future, a person must make use of the means prescribed for one who
is in danger of sin (see above, 258 sqq.), for a lax conscience places
one in danger of sin.

605. Remedies Recommended for a Lax Conscience.--(a) The defect of will
or character should be corrected. Example: The presumptuous should
reflect on the justice of God, and recall that the broad way leads to
perdition. Those in whom the wish is father to the lax judgment should
make war on the passion that leads them astray. Those who have become
lax through bad habits, should set about acquiring good habits, like
that of going to the Sacraments frequently. (b) The error of the
intellect should be corrected. Example: If a person's religious
training has been neglected, he should do what he can to get correct
information and advice as to his duties. If one has been influenced by
lax ideas or conduct, one should change one's reading or associations.

606. Is a lax person held responsible, if he does not know that he is
lax? (a) If his conscience is invincibly erroneous, he cannot know that
it is lax, and hence he is not responsible; (b) if his conscience is
vincibly erroneous, he ought to know that he is lax, and hence he is
responsible. Examples: The boy Caius keeps whatever he finds, because
he thinks he has a right to do this. The man Titus does not like
cheating, but he cheats habitually, because he thinks he has as much
right to do so as others. Both the boy and the man are lax, but neither
considers himself lax; the difference is that Titus can and ought to
know that he is lax.

607. The scrupulous Conscience.--This is a species of erroneous
judgment that sees sin where there is no sin, or grave sin where there
is only light sin, and whose reasons are trivial or absurd. (a) It
differs, therefore, from a strict or tender conscience, which, while it
does not exaggerate sin, judges that one should try to avoid even
slight sin and imperfection. This is the golden mean between a lax and
a scrupulous conscience. Persons with this sort of conscience are
sometimes called scrupulous or singular, because they are more exact
than the majority. More accurately they are to be called conscientious
or God-fearing.

(b) The scrupulous conscience differs also from scrupulosity, which is a
state of mind in which one whose judgment is not erroneous, is
nevertheless tormented by fears or doubts about his moral condition.

608. The rules given above (588 sqq.) for the erroneous conscience
apply also to the scrupulous conscience. (a) He who follows a
scrupulous conscience does not sin by this, even though he is vincibly
in error; for there is no danger of sin in doing more than is required.
Example: Caius is too lazy to make inquiries about his religious
duties, but he has the exaggerated notion that grace at meals obliges
under pain of grave sin. He does not sin by following his conscience,
for grace at meals is recommended to all. (b) He who disobeys a
scrupulous conscience commits the sin his conscience apprehends.
Example: If Caius omits grace, he is guilty of grave sin.

609. Special Dangers of a scrupulous Conscience.--(a) As to himself,
the scrupulous person suffers from his conscience; it makes him guilty
of sin where there should be no sin, and by its exaggerated strictness
it often drives him to the other extreme of laxity. (b) As to others,
the scrupulous person is an annoyance and a detriment; he tries to
impose his conscience on them, or at least he makes virtue appear

610. It is possible for a conscience to be scrupulous and lax at the
same time, over-indulgent on some points, over-severe on others (see
600). (a) It may be scrupulous as regards others, and lax as regards
self, or vice versa. Example; Parents sometimes are too lenient with
themselves, but rule their children with extreme severity; in other
cases they are meticulous as to their own conduct, but think they must
allow their children every indulgence.

(b) A conscience may be scrupulous in minor matters and lax in major
matters. Example: The Jewish leaders scrupled to take the money from
Judas or to enter the house of Pilate, but they did not hesitate to
condemn our Lord unjustly.

(c) A conscience may be scrupulous as to externals, lax as to
internals. Example: The Pharisees made much of bodily purifications,
but gave little thought to purity of mind and heart.

611. The Perplexed Conscience.--Like to the scrupulous conscience is
the perplexed conscience, which judges that in a particular instance
one cannot escape sin, whether one acts or does not act. Example: Titus
fears that, if he goes to church, he will sin by endangering his
health, which is feeble; that, if he does not go to church, he will sin
by disobeying the law. This seems to have been the conscience of Herod,
who thought he was confronted with the alternative of perjury or murder
when the head of John the Baptist was asked of him (Matt, xiv. 9).

612. St. Alphonsus gives the following directions to assist one who is
perplexed in conscience:

(a) If without serious inconvenience decision can be delayed, reliable
advice should be obtained (e.g., from the confessor).

(b) If decision cannot be delayed, the alternative that seems the
lesser evil should be chosen. Example: The natural law requires that
Titus should not expose his life to danger unnecessarily. The positive
law of the Church requires that he go to Mass on Sunday. It is a less
evil to omit what is required by the law of the Church than to omit
what is required by the law of God. Hence, Titus should decide that he
is not obliged in his circumstances to go to church.

(c) If decision cannot be delayed and the party cannot decide where the
lesser evil lies, he is free to choose either; for he is not bound to
the impossible.

613. If, in the supposition last mentioned, the perplexed person acts
with the feeling that he is committing sin through necessity, is he
really guilty or not?

(a) If by the feeling of guilt is meant, not a judgment of the mind,
but a scruple or doubt, he is not guilty, as we shall see below when we
speak of scrupulosity.

(b) If by the feeling of guilt is meant a judgment of the mind that he
has to sin and an intention to welcome the opportunity, he is guilty;
but his guilt is considerably diminished by the error and his difficult
circumstances. Example: Titus thinks that he sins whether he obeys or
disobeys an order to take a good dose of whiskey. He decides to take
the dose, and feels rather pleased at the thought that he will become

(c) If by the feeling of guilt is meant a judgment that one has to sin,
accompanied by sorrow at the necessity, one is not guilty, if one
thinks the matter over to the best of one's ability before acting;
there is some guilt, if the perplexity arises from previous culpable
negligence and no effort whatever is made to remedy this before acting.
Example: Gaia asks her mother if she may go for a ride. The mother
fears that, if she refuses, Gaia will become desperate; if she permits,
Gaia will meet unsuitable companions. If the mother's perplexity is due
to the fact that she has never taken any interest in Gaia, she is
responsible if she carelessly makes a wrong decision; but if the
perplexity arises only from the difficult character of Gaia, the mother
is not responsible.

614. Scrupulosity.--Like to the scrupulous conscience is the state of
scrupulosity, which manifests itself in moral matters especially as a
vain fear or anxiety concerning the presence or magnitude of sin in
one's act. A psychopathic state, scrupulosity is usually listed as a
form of psychasthenia which is characterized by weakness of soul,
inability to cope with problems, and a lack of psychic energy.
Clinically examined, the psychasthenic presents the following
characteristics: (1) physically, he is listless and always tired; (2)
intellectually, his tiredness makes it impossible for him to
concentrate for long periods of time; (c) psychologically, he is an
introvert concerned with himself as the center of his interests and

The more common manifestations of the psychasthenic's difficulties
include: self-diffidence, uncertainty, hesitation, obsessions and
scruples. A species of psychasthenia, scrupulosity may be described as
an inordinate preoccupation with the moral and religious order, a
special type of worry directed toward the morality of actions.

(a) scrupulosity must be distinguished, however, from the scrupulous
conscience, inasmuch as scrupulosity is not a judgment, but a fear that
accompanies one's judgment. Example: A scrupulous person knows very
well that it is not a sin to omit grace, nor a grave sin to pray with
some voluntary distraction; but he worries over these things as if they
were sins, or grave sins.

(b) scrupulosity must be distinguished from the tender conscience,
inasmuch as scrupulosity is an exaggerated and harmful solicitude. A
person of tender conscience is careful even in smaller duties, but in a
quiet and recollected way, whereas the scrupulous person is all
excitement and distraction.

(c) scrupulosity must be distinguished from the anxious or doubtful or
guilty conscience, inasmuch as scrupulosity is a baseless fear or
phobia. Examples: A person who has practised injustice for many years,
has good reason to be perturbed in conscience when he reflects that
restitution or reparation is a prerequisite to pardon; but a mother who
did all she could to train her children well, is scrupulous, if she is
constantly reproaching herself that she should have done better. A
person who makes a contract while fearing that it may be unlawful,
because good authorities hold its unlawfulness, acts with a doubtful
conscience; but if he fears that the contract is unlawful, in spite of
the fact that others regard it as lawful and that his only reason for
doubt is that they may be wrong, he is scrupulous. The Egyptians at the
time of the plagues could reasonably forecast grievous chastisements on
account of their wickedness (Wis., xvii. 10); but a good person who
worries constantly over the possibility of being damned must be

615. Scruples may be divided in various ways, but the simplest division
seems to be by virtue of object, extension and duration. By reason of
object, scruples may center on only one or, at most, a few moral
activities, e.g., duties of charity, or sins against chastity, or they
may embrace the whole moral life of the individual. By reason of
extension, some scruples are limited to interior actions, others extend
to external manifestations. By reason of duration, scruples may be
classified as intermittent, or temporary, and quasi-permanent which is
characteristic of the constitutionally scrupulous person whose physical
and psychical disposition incline him to scrupulosity.

616. The signs or external manifestations of scrupulosity have been
variously divided, but a simplified division into intellectual, or
cognitive, affective, or volitional, and compulsive suffices for our
present purpose.

(a) Intellectual: habitual abulia, i.e., an inability to decide,
coupled with and interacting with constant doubt.

(b) Affective: closely allied to the intellectual state is the feeling
of insufficiency which extends to actions, to the individual's own
personality, to his desire for higher goals, to his abilities, etc.
This fosters and strengthens the inability to decide. Inordinate fears,
anxieties and sadness contribute to the genesis and growth of the sense
of inadequacy.

(c) Compulsive: numerous compulsion factors are present in more serious
cases of scrupulosity, e.g., obsessions, phobias, and compulsions
properly so called, which concern external actions or rituals.

Obsessions include irresistible, persistent and irrational ideas
accompanied by feelings of tension and fear. These ideas which plague
the individual are "discordant," that is, out of harmony with his
habitual attitude, and "impulsive," tending to reduce themselves
spontaneously to action. The scrupulous person is frightened and
flustered by the thought of doing a thing for which he has a positive
abhorrence and by his inability to get the thought out of his mind.

Phobias refer to habitual, irrational fears of a definite entity
associated with a high degree of anxiety and unwarranted by objective
reality. They are very intense fears, completely out of proportion to
their causes or objects.

Finally, compulsions strictly so called may be defined as irresistible,
unreasonable urges to perform actions to free the individual from an
obsessing idea. Tension and anxiety are associated if the act or
external ritual is not performed.

For the confessor, the recognition of a scrupulous person is not too
difficult. The penitent's own difficulties present the first and most
obvious sign, e.g., irrational doubts about consent to temptation, as
to the gravity of a sin, etc., and undue concern about circumstances.
Concomitant signs confirming the judgment that a person is scrupulous

(a) Obstinacy of judgment; Although the scrupulous person seeks advice,
frequently from many confessors, he tends to follow his own judgment.
He is inclined to think that the confessor has not understood him, that
he has not given a complete picture of his state of soul, etc.

(b) Inconstancy in acting owing to inability to judge rightly and the
consequent frequent changes of judgment for light reasons.

(c) Irrelevant accusations of multiple circumstances that tend to lose
the sin in the maze of circumstances.

(d) External motions by which the individual tries to do away with the
fear, sin, or other difficulty.

617. Causes of a scrupulous Conscience.--Although the signs of
scrupulosity are easily recognizable, the causes are not clearly
defined, and authors are not entirely agreed in this matter. A listing
of probable causes would include internal causes:

(a) physical--the physical causes are virtually unknown. Most authors
admit a constitutional disposition to scrupulosity, just as there is
one to its quasi-genus, psychasthenia. Reductively this might involve
disorders in the vago-sympathetic nervous system and the
neuro-endocrine system. (b) psychical--the cause is attributed to too
low a psychic tension. The inability to cope with obsessions and the
attacks of phobias serve to exhaust the individual; (c) moral--perhaps
a suspicious and melancholy character, a disposition that is overly
impressionable and changeable, or a self-opinionated nature,
overconfident of its own ability.

618. The external causes of scrupulosity are: (a) the devil, who
excites vain fears in order to diminish devotion, to discourage the use
of prayer and of the Sacraments, to drive to tepidity and despair; (b)
the neighbor, who teaches scrupulosity by his words or example;
association with persons who are scrupulous; the reading of spiritual
books of a rigoristic character; assistance by persons of a timid
character at terrifying sermons on the divine justice; overly
protective and overly rigorous education.

619. Though God cannot be the cause of scrupulosity in the same way as
the evil spirits (who use it for man's destruction), nor in the same
way as human agencies (which are unable to bring good out of the evil
they cause), He does in exceptional cases directly permit even saintly
persons to be vexed by scrupulosity that they may thereby satisfy for
sin, or exercise themselves in humility and patience, or shake off
spiritual torpor.

Scrupulosity that is supernatural in origin is much rarer than that
which has a natural source, and it can be usually recognized by certain
signs, like the following; (a) when it cannot be accounted for by
natural causes, and is generally short in duration; (b) if it is from
the evil spirits, it leaves the soul shaken or dismayed, if from God,
it is followed by light and peace.

620. Dangers of scrupulosity.--The evil results of indulged
scrupulosity are as follows: (a) temporal evils--the constant fears and
worries of the scrupulous affect the brain and nerves, break down the
bodily vigor, and lead to neurasthenia, hysteria, insanity or
monomania; (b) spiritual evils--time is wasted in useless regrets and
anxieties, prayer becomes a torture, confidence in God decreases, and,
seeing they do not find consolation in virtue, the scrupulous often end
in vice and despair.

621. Rules to be observed by the scrupulous.--(a) They must not yield
to their scruples. As was said above, scrupulosity is not a conscience,
but only the counterfeit appearance of a conscience; not a help to the
soul, but a grave drawback and danger. Hence, the scrupulous must learn
to despise their foolish fears and imaginations. (b) They must follow
blindly the commands of a prudent spiritual director. To attempt to
make decisions for themselves is a harrowing experience for scrupulous
persons, and one fraught with great peril. They must protect
themselves, therefore, by following the decisions made for them by one
who will guide them aright. Gradually, as their condition improves,
however, they must learn to take the initiative and thus prepare
themselves to act as responsible persons capable of forming a correct

622. Not to follow their scruples means: (a) that scrupulous persons
should recognize their scruples for what they really are (i.e., for a
spiritual disorder), and that they should firmly resolve to use the
means to get rid of them; (b) that they will prevent scruples from
arising by keeping themselves occupied with external things, or by
interesting themselves with matters that will exclude the worrisome
thoughts; (c) that they will banish scruples at once, as they would a
temptation. The two key aims of the scrupulous individual is to
counteract his introversion by greater social activity and to re-train
his faculty so that he will be in control at all times.

623. Though the scrupulous are obliged not to heed their scruples, they
rarely sin by heeding them, because their condition is such that they
are not responsible. For, as was said above (40 sqq.), fear and other
passions lessen or remove deliberation and the voluntariness of acts.

624. To give absolute obedience to the spiritual director means: (a)
that scrupulous persons should recognize that it is wrong for them to
depend on their own prudence, whereas they are absolutely safe in
following the advice and precepts of the spiritual father who holds the
place of God; (b) that they should avoid changing directors, and should
adhere strictly to the rules prescribed for them.

625. Qualities required for a successful direction of the scrupulous

(a) Knowledge. The spiritual physician must be able to distinguish
scrupulosity from spiritual diseases or conditions that are similar,
lest he prescribe what is not suitable for the case. Example: A person
of tender conscience should continue in that state, a person of
scrupulous conscience needs instruction that he may put aside his
erroneous views; a scrupulous person stands in need of special
guidance. He must also recognize that scrupulosity is a mental illness
that at times requires the expert treatment of a psychiatrist. Knowing
his own limitations and the need of expert therapy, he should not
hesitate to send the penitent to a competent doctor.

(b) Prudence. Some persons pretend scrupulosity in order to get a name
for holiness, or to make a good impression; needless to say, they must
be dealt with cautiously, as they often prove very unscrupulous. With a
person who is really scrupulous, the spiritual director must carefully
obtain all the knowledge necessary to ascertain the true state of soul,
prudently bring the individual to recognize that he is a sick person,
help to restore his confidence in himself, in his confessor, in God,

(c) Patience. The scrupulous are almost as troublesome to their
directors as they are to themselves; but they are heavily burdened and
are unable to help themselves. The law of charity applies. They have
the same right to charitable treatment as others who are physically
suffering and needy.

(d) Firmness. Disobedience will defeat every effort of a director to
help a scrupulous person. On this point, therefore, there must be no
leniency: the rules laid down must be insisted on, the reasons should
not be given, and no argument or discussion should be allowed. The
director should speak with certainty and authority; he should be brief,
and, if he must repeat, he will do well to use the same words.

(e) Good judgment. After deciding that a person is scrupulous, the
director must discover what is the particular form of scrupulosity in
the case, and must apply remedies that are suitable.

626. Rules Concerning Persons Scrupulous about Past Confessions.--(a)
For the first time the confessor may permit a general confession of the
past life, if the scrupulous penitent has fears about previous
confessions and has not already made such a general confession. Let the
individual relate his whole story at once, with all its details and
complications. This might perhaps take more than one confession to
complete, but the full recital is necessary if the scrupulous person is
to have confidence in his director's knowledge of his exact state of
soul. (b) After this general confession, no mention of past confession
must be permitted, unless the scrupulous person is ready to swear
without hesitation that he is sure that a sin certainly grave was
committed by him and never rightly confessed.

627. Rules Concerning Persons scrupulous about Present
Confessions.--(a) Before confession, the penitent must be content with
a certain brief space of time appointed by the confessor for making his
examination of conscience and act of contrition. A longer time spent in
these preparations is useful to other penitents, but harmful to the

(b) During confession only those sins need be mentioned which are seen
from a brief examen to be both certain and grave, and only those
circumstances whose declaration is absolutely necessary. If the
scrupulous penitent begins to speak of doubtful sins or irrelevant
details, the confessor must forbid him to go on; for though confessions
must be complete, whenever possible, doubts and details must not be
permitted in the case of such scrupulous persons (see Vol. II).

(c) After confession, if the confessor judges that there is not
sufficient matter for absolution, he must not yield to the penitent's
fears, but must assure him that he does not need absolution and that he
may go to the Sacraments Without it.

628. Rules Concerning Persons scrupulous about the Performance of
Duties.--(a) The scrupulous person should be instructed that positive
laws, divine as well as human, do not oblige in case of moral
impossibility (i.e., when their observance is too burdensome); that the
matter about which he has scruples has become too difficult for him,
and hence that he is not obliged to it as others are.

(b) The scrupulous person should be commanded to leave undone what his
vain fear calls on him to do; and, if this does not suffice, he should
be told that he is not bound by the duty which causes him such anxiety.
Example: Titus is scrupulous about the performance of obligatory
prayers, so much so that he is not satisfied until he has repeated them
several times, lest some syllable may have been omitted or hurried
over, or the intention or attention may have been lost sight of at some
part of the prayer, or the devotional posture may not have been
observed throughout. If Titus cannot learn to say these prayers without
making senseless repetitions, he should be told that the obligation has
ceased until such time as he is able to fulfill it without torture to
himself or others.

629. Of course, if harm is done to another by the incomplete
performance of a duty, even a scrupulous person cannot be dispensed
from repetition. Example: If a priest has not pronounced a sacramental
form correctly, the fact that he is scrupulous does not excuse him from
repeating the form correctly.

630. Rules Concerning Persons Scrupulous about the Commission Of
Sin.--(a) The scrupulous person should be told that he is scrupulous,
that his scrupulosity is not a conscience that he is obliged to follow,
but a vain fear which he is obliged to struggle against by observing
the directions given him.

(b) He should be directed not to deliberate long before acting, but to
do what seems right to him at first; not to conclude after acting that
he has committed sin, unless this appears certain and evident. Since
the scrupulous are over-careful, the presumption is in their favor, and
they can act and judge prudently by disregarding their fears and
doubts. If by deciding offhand they sometimes sin or fail to recognize
sin in a past act, this will come from invincible ignorance, and they
will be excused from responsibility.

631. Since a disease is best cured by removing its cause, the
confessor, when he has diagnosed a case of scruples, should prescribe
remedies that are opposed to the source of the trouble.

(a) If scrupulosity seems to come from God, the penitent should be
encouraged to regard it as a means of satisfaction for past negligences
or as an occasion of virtue and progress, to pray incessantly for light
and assistance, and to follow the guidance which God has provided. (b)
If scrupulosity appears to be the result of diabolical obsession, and
exorcism seems to be called for, the sufferer should not be told this.
(c) If scrupulosity comes from associations or reading, the sufferer
should avoid these occasions, and cultivate the companionship of
persons or books that are cheerful and that give a hopeful outlook on
one's duty and destiny.

632. Remedies for Scruples That Are Mental in Origin.--(a) Those who
suffer from fixed ideas, phobias, and delusions, should not be reproved
harshly and told that their fears are insane, but should be treated
with kindness and firmness. In ministering to these troubled minds, the
best course seems to be kind assurance that they have nothing to fear,
along with insistence that they imitate the example of the generality
of good people, avoid singular practices of piety, discuss their
anxieties only with their director, and give themselves to some
occupation that will distract their attention from their manias.

(b) Those whose minds are over-active and given to doubts and
objections must avoid introspection and the study of moral problems
that are too difficult for them; they must take a proper amount of
suitable recreation, think and plan how they may help others who are in
need, and avoid idleness.

633. Remedies for Scruples Whose Origin is Moral.--(a) If scruples
arise from a stubbornness of character, the penitent must be told that
the confessor is better fitted to judge the case, and that it is the
height of rashness and presumption for a scrupulous person to prefer
his ideas to those of the priest.

(b) If a melancholy or timid nature accounts for the existence of
scruples, confidence and cheerfulness should be inculcated, and the
penitent should be encouraged to meditate frequently on the goodness of
God, and to remember always that God is not a harsh taskmaster, but a
kind Father.

(c) Those who are scrupulous because their character is fickle and
easily moved by every suggestion or imagination, need to cultivate
seriousness, and to hold strongly to their judgments and resolves
deliberately formed. Obedience to their director will be of more
lasting benefit to these and other psychical scrupulants than
psychiatric treatments through hypnotism, mental suggestion, and
psychoanalysis; observance of the rules prescribed is an excellent
cultivation of will-power, and it is sustained and perfected by the
motives and helps which religion alone can supply.

634. Remedies for scrupulosity Whose Cause Is Physical.--(a) The
physician is the proper person to care for bodily ills; hence, a
scrupulous person who is troubled with headaches, dizziness,
sleeplessness, loss of appetite, nervousness, hallucinations, etc.,
should go to a competent and conscientious specialist in the healing
art. Removal of the causes of hurry and worry, moderate but sufficient
diet, fresh air and exercise, and especially congenial occupation and
surroundings are by general consent included among the best natural

(b) The confessor, if he perceives that illness is the cause of
scruples, should forbid any spiritual practices that cause or aggravate
the malady. Example: scrupulous penitents should not be permitted to
practise mortification by depriving themselves of necessary sleep,
food, exercise or fresh air, or to use devotions or austerities for
which they are physically unfit.

635. Persons who are scrupulous and lax at the same time need to be
directed so as to overcome both spiritual maladies.

(a) If they are more scrupulous than lax, the case is less difficult,
as they incline rather to the safer side, and it will suffice to apply
the remedies indicated above for laxity and scrupulosity, as they are
needed. Example: Titus, on account of scrupulosity, spends too much
time at his prayers, and thus neglects the exercise and recreation
which are necessary for his health. He should be instructed to limit
his devotions, to have a regular time for them each day, and to realize
that he has an obligation to take proper care of his health.

(b) If persons are more lax than scrupulous, the case is difficult, as
they incline more to evil; indeed, if the trouble is Pharisaism, it is
well-nigh incurable, on account of the pride and blindness that oppose
resistance to every effort to cure. These persons need to be treated
with severity, since nothing else will make any impression; they should
be told in plain language how they stand and what is in store for them,
unless they repent. Examples: Caius is extremely careful not to be
guilty of sins of commission, but he thinks nothing of sins of
omission; he would not take a postage stamp without express permission
of the owner, but he neglects from year to year to pay bills, and sees
nothing wrong in this. Titus thinks himself a saint because he worships
the letter of the law, when it is to be applied to others; but he cares
nothing about its spirit, and, though indulgent to self, is a tyrant
with others. Both these men need to be told that, far from being good,
they are very bad; that, far from being secure, they are in great
danger. If insensible to reproofs, they should be reminded of the woes
that await the wilfully blind (Matt., xxiii. 13 sqq.).

636. Practical Conclusions.--An instrument is called good when it
produces with sufficient exactness the effects for which it was
intended; it is bad, if it fails to produce those effects. Thus, a
timepiece, a compass, or a thermometer is good if it indicates
accurately, and bad if it indicates inaccurately. But, as it would be
harmful to guide oneself by an unreliable instrument (e.g., by a watch
with a defective mainspring, or which runs fast or slow), one naturally
corrects the defects and regulates the working of the mechanism. Now,
from what has been said above in this article, we see that conscience
can be a deceptive indicator, and that its accuracy can be improved.
Hence, the need of correcting a bad conscience and of cultivating a
good conscience.

637. Remedies for a bad conscience and means for cultivating a good
conscience are as follows:

(a) The remote causes of a bad conscience are in the will itself. A
person judges wrongly often because he is wrong in himself, wrong in
his intentions and purposes with regard to life as a whole, wrong in
his attitude towards a particular line of duty, wrong in his lack of
sincerity with himself. Hence, the correctives needed are a sincere
love of God and of virtue, courage to wish the truth, and an honest
examination of motives and actions: "The sensual man perceiveth not the
things that are of the Spirit of God, but the spiritual man judgeth all
things" (I Cor., ii. 14, 15).

(b) The immediate causes of a bad conscience are in the intellect. One
judges wrongly because one clings in time of doubt to erroneous ideas
or principles. The remedy, therefore, is to seek diligently for light
through prayer, to study the lives and conduct of those who are models,
to consult with the prudent and the conscientious. The bad conscience
says to God: "Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways"
(Job, xxi. 14); but the good one says: "Teach me Thy justifications.
Thy testimonies are my delight, and Thy justifications my counsel" (Ps.
cxviii. 12, 24).

638. Signs of a Good Conscience.--(a) Extraordinary holiness is not
necessary before one may consider one's conscience good, for there are
degrees of goodness. If, therefore, a person's external life is
directed by the duties of his state, and his internal life, as far as
he can judge, is free from serious guilt and guided by love of God and
hatred of sin, he may safely regard his will as good. If sometimes he
sins venially, this is not because he lacks a good conscience, but
because he does not always follow it.

(b) Extraordinary diligence in studying one's duties is not necessary
before one may regard one's conscience as good, for otherwise a heavier
burden would be imposed than we can suppose God to intend. A person who
is using all the means for obtaining religious instruction that are
used by others in his position and who are conscientious, may safely
regard himself as free from voluntary error. If sometimes he judges
wrongly, the mistake will be involuntary and not due to a bad
conscience. Of course, one whose conscience is not in vincible error
may sin even mortally, not because his conscience is bad, but because
he does not follow it.

639. The following are means for preserving and maintaining a good
conscience: (a) we should judge our motives frequently with the
severity with which we judge the motives of another (Rom., ii. 1), and
as before God (I Cor., ii. 10); (b) we should measure our actions, not
by the standards of the world, its maxims and examples, but by those of
Christ (I John, ii. 15-17; III John, 11).


(_Summa Theologica_, I-II, q. 57, a. 5; II-II, q. 47, a. 9.)

640. As was said above, only that conscience is a safe guide which is
not only good--that is, in agreement, as far as one's efforts can
secure this, with the external law--but also certain. A certain
conscience is one which, without any prudent fear of erring, judges
that a particular act is obligatory or unlawful, and hence here and now
to be done or omitted.

641. Necessity of Certitude.--We must be sure we are right before we
act; otherwise, we expose ourselves to the danger of sinning, and
therefore commit sin (see 582). Hence, it is necessary to act with a
certain conscience, and unlawful to act with an uncertain conscience.
"If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to
the battle?" (I Cor., xiv. 8) may be accommodated to conscience. In
Rom., xiv. 22, 23, the Apostle declares that he who acts with
conviction is blessed, whereas he who acts in uncertainty is condemned.
Examples: Sempronia doubts whether it is sinful to sew on Sunday; she
is not sure, but has grave suspicions that sewing is servile work; if
she goes ahead, she will be guilty of violating the law, as being
willing to take the risk, and therefore the responsibility. Titus
offers another a drink, being uncertain whether it has poison in it or
not; he is guilty of sin, since he has no right to expose himself to
sin and his neighbor to the danger of death.

642. Those persons who act with a doubtful conscience, and later
discover that what they feared might be wrong was not wrong, or not so
bad as they suspected, must bear in mind: (a) that their past conduct
is not to be judged by their newly acquired knowledge, for that conduct
must be judged by the knowledge had at the time. Example: Sempronia
does some work on Sunday, doubting whether she is committing a grave or
a slight sin. Later she discovers that it was really only a venial sin,
and she congratulates herself that she did not sin seriously. Her
judgment is wrong, because she did not know at the time of the work
that it was not a grave sin; (b) that they must guide themselves in
future acts by their newly acquired knowledge.

643. Kinds of Certitude.--Judgments may be certain in a greater or less

(a) They are metaphysically certain, when error is absolutely
impossible, the opposite of what is held by the mind being a
contradiction in terms which omnipotence itself could not make true.
Example: The judgments that the same, identical act cannot be both good
and bad, that good is to be done and evil to be avoided, that God is to
be honored, are metaphysically certain, since they result immediately
from the very concepts of being, of goodness, and of God.

(b) Judgments are physically certain, when error is impossible
according to the laws of nature, the opposite of what is held by the
mind being unrealizable except through intervention of another cause.
Example: The judgments that he who takes poison will destroy life, that
he who applies fire to a house will destroy property, are physically
certain. because natural agencies, like poison and fire, act infallibly
when applied to suitable matters and under suitable conditions and left
to their course, unless they are overruled by superior power.

(c) Judgments are morally certain, when error is impossible according
to what is customary among mankind, the opposite of what is held by the
mind being so unlikely that it would be imprudent to be moved by it.
Examples: One is morally certain that what a reputedly truthful and
competent person relates to one is true. A person is morally certain
that a conclusion he has drawn about his duty in a particular instance
is correct, if he believes that he has overlooked no means of reaching
the truth. Testimony and inference, since they come from free and
fallible agencies, may lead into error; but, when they appear to have
the requisite qualities indicative of truth, they are for the most part
reliable and in practical life have to be considered as such.

644. As to the certainty that is required in the judgment of
conscience, the following points must be noted:

(a) Metaphysical certainty is not required, since conscience does not
deal with primary propositions, but with deductions about particular
acts. The first moral principles, which are the object of synderesis,
and at least some of the general conclusions, which are the object of
moral science, are metaphysically certain (see above 145, 300), as they
are based on necessary relations; but the particular conclusions, which
are the object of conscience, are concerned with the contingent and the

(b) Physical certainty is not required for the judgment of conscience,
since conscience is not concerned with the activities of natural
agents, but with the activities of moral agents that act with freedom
and responsibility.

(c) Moral certitude, therefore, is sufficient for the conclusions drawn
by conscience. That a higher kind of certitude is not necessary should
not surprise us, for it would be unreasonable to expect that the same
degree of assent be given to judgments that are concerned with
particular and contingent cases as to those that are concerned with
universal and necessary principles.

645. Moral certitude is of two kinds: (a) certitude in the strict
sense, which excludes not only the fear of error, but every doubt,
prudent and imprudent, great and small, Example: Titus thinks of a way
in which he could easily make money dishonestly; but his conscience
sees that the thing is manifestly wrong and decides without the
slightest fear or doubt that it must not be done; (b) certitude in the
wide sense, which excludes all fear of error and every serious or
prudent doubt, but not one or other slight and imprudent doubt.
Example: Caius was baptized by an excellent priest, but the date was
omitted in the register. The doubt occurs to Caius that perhaps
something essential was also omitted, and that it may be his duty to
seek another Baptism. His doubt is unreasonable.

646. Moral certitude in the wide sense is sufficient for a safe
conscience, even in matters of great importance, since it is frequently
the only kind of certitude one can have, and he who would strive to be
free from every slight and baseless suspicion would be soon involved in
a maze of scruples and perplexities. Example: If the Caius above
referred to were to yield to his doubt and be rebaptized, a similar
doubt about the second Baptism might easily arise in his mind, and he
would be no more contented than before.

647. From the point of view of its object, certitude is twofold. (a)
Speculative certitude refers to a judgment considered as a general law,
abstraction being made from particular circumstances. Example: It is
speculatively certain that farm work on a holyday is a forbidden kind
of work, and that clerics are obliged to say the Divine Office. (b)
Practical certitude refers to a judgment which is an application of a
general law to a particular case, consideration being given to all the
pertinent circumstances. Example: It is practically certain that Titus
may make hay on a holyday, if otherwise he will suffer great loss; and
that a cleric is excused from the Divine Office, if his physician has
warned him that he is physically or mentally unable to perform it.

648. Speculative certainty is not sufficient for conscience, but
practical certitude is required, since conscience refers not to
abstract laws but to concrete cases--not to what is right if only the
object of the act is considered, but to what is right when one
considers the object, the motive, and all the circumstances here and
now present.

649. From the point of view of the arguments on which it is based,
certitude is of two kinds. (a) Demonstrative certitude is the assent
that rests on a conclusion logically drawn from certainly true
premises. Example: Caius argues that he is obliged to go to Mass on
Sunday, because the law is certain, and it is also certain that the law
applies to him. (b) Probable certitude, which is the assent that rests
on a conclusion, whose premises, though not certain, seem to be true,
and against which there is no counter conclusion, or none that cannot
be readily answered (see 703). Example: Caius is pretty sure that he is
seriously ill, because he perceives a number of alarming symptoms; the
possibility that these may be due to imagination is excluded by the
fact that they are new and sudden. Caius, therefore, concludes that he
may hold himself excused from attendance at Mass.

650. Probable certitude is sufficient for conscience, for in moral
matters it is impossible to have at all times reasons that amount to a
demonstration, and hence a person acts prudently in following a
decision that is solidly probable and unopposed by any contrary serious
probability. What is called "probable certitude" here is very different
from probable opinion, about which there will be question below (662

651. From the point of view of the manner in which it is obtained,
certitude is again twofold. (a) Direct certitude is that which is
obtained from principles that are intrinsic to the case by applying to
the matter the law concerning it. Examples: A judge who decides
according to the evidence and proofs given in court that an accused is
guilty, and a son who concludes from the Fourth Commandment that he is
bound to help his parents in necessity, have direct certainty in their
judgments, because they argued from principles that deal with the
question before them. (b) Indirect certitude is that which is obtained
from principles that are extrinsic to the case by applying to the
matter in hand reflex principles (i.e., rules that direct how one
should act in doubt) or the principle of authority (i.e., the argument
drawn from the opinion of those who are acknowledged as competent to
decide). Examples; If a judge is not able to form a certain judgment
from intrinsic reasons concerning an accused, because strong arguments
have been given both for guilt and for innocence, he has recourse to
principles that have reference to his own state of doubt, and which
declare that he must acquit when he is not certain of guilt. If a man
is not able to decide whether the Fourth Commandment obliges him to
keep his grandparents or mother-in-law in his home, when they upset his
family and are able to take care of themselves, he can have recourse to
the external principle of authority by consulting his confessor.

652. Direct certitude is not necessary for the judgment of conscience,
for often, as in the cases just mentioned, it is not possible.
Moreover, indirect certitude suffices to give one who is in doubt such
practical assurance that one's fears become unimportant and one is able
to act prudently in spite of them.

(a) The principle of authority--that "in doubt we can safely follow the
advice of those who are experts and truthful"--is reliable, as both the
conditions required for authority (viz., knowledge and truthfulness)
and also daily experience show.

(b) Reflex principles likewise, although they do not prove what is
deduced from them, are well founded, and point so clearly the side to
be taken when judgment is suspended between alternatives that they
enable one to act with all the certitude that prudence demands.
Example: The principle that "in doubt decision should be given in favor
of the accused," is based on the fact that a man's right to his life
and liberty is so certain that he does not forfeit that right unless it
is proved convincingly that he is guilty.

653. Examples of uncertain and certain consciences are the following:

(a) Uncertain conscience: It is lawful to make a just contract (major
premise certain); but this contract is just (minor premise a matter of
doubt or opinion); therefore, this contract is lawful (conclusion a
matter of doubt or opinion).

(b) Conscience directly certain: It is lawful to make a just contract
(certain); but this contract is just (certain); therefore, I may make
this contract (certain).

(c) Conscience indirectly certain: It is lawful to follow competent
advice or a moral system approved by the Church (certain); but a
competent spiritual adviser or an approved system of Moral Theology
holds that this kind of contract is lawful (certain); therefore, it is
lawful for me to make this contract (certain).

654. An Uncertain Conscience.--Uncertainty of conscience can be
understood in two senses.

(a) Conscience is uncertain in a more strict sense, if the verdict of
the moral judgment on a question of lawfulness or unlawfulness is that
no decision can be given either way, either because there are no
reasons of importance on either side (negative doubt), or because the
opposing reasons balance so perfectly that it is impossible to choose
between them (positive doubt). Examples: Titus, wishing to do some
drawing on Sundays, asks himself whether drawing is servile work. Not
knowing the definition of "servile," he can only reply to his doubt
that he has no reasons either for affirmation or for negation. Caius
reads moral authors on the same question, and the pros and cons seem to
him so equally strong that he cannot pronounce for either side.

(b) Conscience is uncertain in a less strict sense, if the verdict of
the moral judgment on a question of lawfulness or unlawfulness is that
the mind inclines to one side more than the other, but cannot decide in
its favor (suspicion), or that it decides for one side, while
perceiving that the arguments for the contrary are not to be despised
(opinion). Example: Titus decides to spend a good part of Sunday taking
photographs. Caius argues that this is unlawful; Sempronius, that it is
lawful. Titus thinks the arguments of both are strong, but is better
pleased with those of Sempronius. If he feels he cannot act on either
opinion, his state of mind is what we called suspicion; if he feels
that the opinion of Sempronius has prevailed, his state of mind is one
of opinion.

655. From what was said above concerning the certitude requisite for
conscience (see 641 sqq.), it follows that: (a) when the state of mind
is positive or negative doubt, one is not allowed to act; for a person
who is ignorant of what he should do, or who is fluctuating between
opposites, runs the risk of sin and its consequences, if he acts
blindly; (b) when the state of mind is suspicion, one is not allowed to
act, for conscience must be more than conjecture or inclination; (e)
when the state of mind is opinion, one is or is not allowed to act,
according as the opinion has or has not the qualities required for
certitude that is moral and practical (as explained above in 643 sqq.).

656. Doubt and Suspicion.--The following are the duties of a person
whose state of mind about his obligation is one of doubt or suspicion:

(a) If he has no time to resolve his hesitation but must decide at
once, he should follow the rules given for a perplexed conscience (see
above, 611 sqq.). Example; Sempronius is ordered by his father to go on
an errand; by his mother, to remain at home. He does not know whom he
should obey, but argues that there can be no harm in performing the
errand, since he feels that he is forced anyway. Sempronius' impromptu
decision proceeds from a sense of moral responsibility; it is good, and
as certain as he is able to make it.

(b) If a person has time to resolve his hesitation, he should not trust
to common sense, but should consult moral theology, if he is competent
to understand and apply it, or should have recourse to his confessor,
if he is not a theologian. The attention given to his problem should be
proportionate to the gravity of the duty in question, its importance
for third parties, etc. (see below, 667 Sqq.). Example: If a layman is
uncertain whether a practice he follows in his business is dishonest,
he should consult a priest; if the priest is uncertain, he should refer
to his theology and study the matter until he is able to give a
well-founded, morally certain judgment.

657. Reflex principles by the aid of which a negative doubt may be
solved, when the question is about the existence or non-existence of
some fact connected with obligation, are the following:

(a) If the fact at issue is one about which presumption may be had from
general or personal experience, the doubt may be settled by the
principle: "In uncertainty decide according to what usually happens."
Examples: Titus is uncertain whether his boy of seven years has the use
of reason and is bound to go to Mass. As a rule, children attain
discretion at the age of seven; and hence Titus should take his boy to
Mass. Fr. Caius is uncertain whether he has said Terce. His experience
is that such uncertainties on his part have always been baseless in the
past; hence, he may consider that he has said Terce as usual.

(b) If the fact at issue is one about which no presumption is afforded,
either from general or personal experience, recourse may be had to the
principle: "A fact should not be taken for granted, but must be
proved." Examples: Sempronia doubts whether her practice of saying the
Rosary daily was the result of a vow; but, as there is no proof or
circumstantial evidence of a vow, it may be held that her practice
originated in a resolution. Caius, a stranger, claims that Titus owes
him for an unpaid debt of his father. Titus knows nothing of the
alleged debt, and the only substantiation for its existence is the word
of the stranger. Titus is not obliged to pay.

658. Presumption of a fact is of three kinds according to Weight:

(a) Violent presumption is based on indications so significant or
numerous that it leaves only slight room for evasion. This kind of
presumption suffices, but is not essential in solving doubts. Example:
Caius has no direct proof or disproof that he paid Titus in a certain
business transaction, because all the papers have been lost. But he
remembers distinctly that he drew the money and went personally to the
office of Titus on the day payment was to be made, and that the latter,
up to the time of his death several months later, always acted as if
full settlement had been made.

(b) Strong presumption is based on circumstances or signs so moving
that they permit one to infer a fact as being their natural or usual
accompaniment or result. This kind of presumption suffices in solving
the doubts we are considering. Example: If Caius, spoken of above, has
no individual recollection of any circumstances bearing on the payment
of his debt to Titus, but knows that it was his invariable custom to
pay all his debts promptly, the presumption that he paid this debt is

(c) Light presumption occurs when the reasons are so slight, that they
hardly ever suffice to permit us to infer a given fact from them.
Example: If we suppose that Caius was dilatory in paying debts, and
that he has no better indication of payment having been made than the
fact that Titus gave him a cigar about the time of their business
transaction, there is little presumption that the debt was paid.

659. Reflex principles that may be used to settle negative doubts about
the quality of an act performed are the following:

(a) If there is an individual presumption, the quality of the act may
be inferred from what usually happens. Example: Sempronius cannot
remember whether a certain good work he undertook was prompted by zeal
or ambition. But, as he usually tried to keep his motives pure, it may
be concluded that the work in question proceeded from a right intention.

(b) If there is no individual presumption, the quality of an act may be
settled from general presumptions or principles. When the act was
according to law, and the doubt concerns its validity or sufficiency,
one may take it that all was rightly done; for it usually happens that
he who complies with the substance, also complies with what is
accessory. Moreover, the welfare of the public and of individuals
require that an act done outwardly according to law should be deemed as
rightly performed unless the contrary can be proved. Hence the rules:
"In doubt decide for the validity of what was done"; "What has been
done is presumed to have been rightly done." Examples: Caia cannot
remember whether she really consented when she married Titus.
Sempronius cannot remember whether he had sufficient attention in
hearing Mass on Sunday. The presumptions are that Caia married validly
and that Sempronius heard Mass properly, if they acted in good faith.

660. Reflex principles that may be used to settle negative and
invincible doubts concerning law or obligation are the following:

(a) If no serious reasons can be found to prove or disprove the
existence of a law, or its gravity or application to a present case,
use may be made of the principle: "Invincible ignorance of the law
excuses from sin." Example: Titus on an ember day consults all the
sources of information he has to discover whether it is a fast day; but
all he can learn is that some vigils are fast days, others are not.

(b) If no serious reasons can be found to prove or disprove that a law
bears a certain meaning, recourse may be had to such principles as the
following: "A law obliges only in so far as it is knowable"; "The
interpretation may be made against the legislator who could have spoken
more clearly"; "Things burdensome to the subjects of the law should be
construed narrowly; things favorable, broadly." Example: Caius, who
supervises workingmen, has no notion regarding the meaning of the word
"workingman" as used in an indult on fasting--viz., whether it applies
to supervisors of work or exclusively to laborers.

(c) If no serious reasons can be found to prove or directly disprove
that a certain law has ceased or been abrogated, the principle to be
followed is: "In doubt decide for that which has the presumption." In
this case the presumption is for the continuance of the law, since it
was certainly made, and there is no probability for its
non-continuance. Example: Sempronius learns that certain mitigations
have been made in the law of fasting, and wonders whether the same is
true as regards the law of abstinence; but he has no reason to think
that any change has been made on this latter point.

661. In the above cases negative doubt was solved generally in favor of
non-obligation as against obligation. But there are two cases in which
negative doubt must be settled in favor of obligation, according to the
rule: "In doubt follow that which is safer." The two cases are:

(a) Negative doubt must be settled in favor of obligation, when the
doubt is about a matter of such importance that it does not permit the
taking of risks in its performance, as when there is question of laws
that safeguard the supreme rights of man, or of laws that prescribe the
essentials to be used in the administration of the Sacraments. Example:
Sempronius adopts a newly-born infant abandoned at his door. As there
is nothing to indicate whether the baby has been baptized or not,
Sempronius takes the safer course and has it baptized.

(b) Negative doubt must be settled in favor of obligation when it
persists because no reflex principle is found, or none that seems to be
suitable for the case. Example: Titus wavers between uncertainties
about the existence of a law; he can discover no reasons pro or con,
and he knows no principle or presumption to guide himself by in his
difficulty. He does not know or even think that he may act as if the
law were non-existent, and hence he must inquire further, or else act
as if the law did exist.

662. Opinion.--The duty of one whose state of mind is opinion is as

(a) If he is able to remove every objection against his judgment or to
make unimportant such objection or objections as remain, his opinion
has become moral certainty (see above, 644 Sqq.), and he may follow it
as a safe guide. Example: Caius promises to marry Sempronia, but his
parents forbid the marriage. Caius opines that he should keep his
promise, but to be sure he consults his pastor. The latter shows him
that the opposition to his marriage is unreasonable, and thus sets at
rest the difficulties of Caius.

(b) If a person is not able to remove one or more important objections
against his judgment, his opinion has not become moral certitude, and
he may not follow it as a safe guide. Example: If Caius' pastor holds
that the parents are right and Caius wrong in the question of marriage
with Scmpronia, so that Caius, while still thinking he should keep his
promise, has serious fears that it would be a wrong step, the young man
should not follow his own view.

663. Those who act when their state of mind is doubt, suspicion, or
uncertain opinion are: (a) guilty of sin, for they do not act in good
faith (Rom, xiv. 22, 23), and they are imprudent and lovers of danger
(Ecclus., iii. 27); (b) guilty of the species and gravity of sin which
they fear may be in their act; for they interpretatively wish that to
which they expose themselves. Example: If Titus takes an oath, fearing
that his act is perjury, he is guilty of perjury before God, even
though what he says is true.

664. Fears or objections against an opinion are unimportant as follows:
(a) if they have only a slight probability (e.g., Titus opines that he
is not obliged to say the second lessons, because he knows that he
began them, and therefore must have said them; but he fears he may be
obliged to say them, because he cannot remember the details of the
lessons, and hence has probably not said them); (b) if they are
improbable (e.g., Caius fears that he may have omitted Sext, although
he recalls going to choir to chant at the regular times.)

665. Fears against an opinion are important, when they are not merely
possible, but have such an appearance of truth that even a prudent man
would consider them as worthy of support.

(a) Intrinsic signs of this solid probability are the good arguments by
which the fear, or contrary of an opinion, is supported. Example: Titus
after careful examination of conscience decides that he is not obliged
to mention a theft in confession, because it happened just before his
last confession; yet, he fears that he is obliged, because he does not
remember having thought of restitution.

(b) Extrinsic signs of solid probability are the good authorities by
whom the contrary of the opinion is defended. Example: Caius opines
that he is not obliged to confess a calumny, because he is not certain
that it is unconfessed; he fears that he is obliged, because St.
Alphonsus, whose authority is great in Moral Theology, teaches that a
grave sin must be confessed unless it is certain that it has been
confessed already.

666. He who is moved by unimportant fears or difficulties is
scrupulous, but not so he who hesitates in the face of an important
difficulty. Examples: Balbus fears he may be guilty of murder, because
he left a sick person for a moment and the latter unexpectedly died in
his absence (scrupulous conscience). Sempronius fears he may be bound
to restitution, because by his ridicule he made Titus lose his means of
livelihood (disturbed conscience).

667. What is to be done by one who holds an opinion as to what he may
or may not do here and now, but who has a serious fear that his opinion
is wrong?

(a) If the fear persists as serious, when the means to remove it (such
as consideration and consultation) have been duly resorted to, he
should delay, if this is possible, or follow the safer course, if delay
is not possible. Example: Titus must go to confession now, but he
cannot recall whether or not a past theft was ever confessed; he thinks
he is not obliged to mention it now, but is far from feeling certain
about this, because of a serious doubt which he cannot resolve. The
thing for him to do is to resolve to confess the theft as one that was
perhaps unconfessed before.

(b) If the fear is removed or made unimportant, by direct means (such
as theological argument from moral principles) or by indirect means
(such as consultation or the use of reflex principles), the opinion may
be followed. Example: If Titus, mentioned above, learns from his
confessor or deduces from reliable reflex principles that he is not
obliged to confess the theft, he may act with a safe conscience in
following this decision.

668. The authority that may be safely followed by a lay person who
holds an opinion, but fears that the opposite may be true, is that of
anyone whom he knows to be pious, instructed and prudent; for, as it is
impossible for him either to settle the question for himself or to
remain in perpetual uncertainty, he must acquire certainty here as in
other important affairs by consulting those who are expert and
reliable. Hence, if the conscience is merely opinionative, a dependable
adviser should be conferred with to make it certain.

(a) In the case of an accusing or excusing conscience, it is at least
advisable that the doubtful sin be mentioned in confession, and
especially by those who are not strict in their lives and who are
inclined to judge their own acts and motives with leniency.

(b) In case of a forbidding or permitting conscience, it is necessary
that one seek reliable information where it can be had, as from parents
or teachers, and if these cannot give it, from a pastor or confessor or
other priest. Example: Sempronius thinks he has a right to drink a
glass of wine now and then to be sociable; but he fears he has no right
to do so, as the drink occasions excitement or foolish remarks, and
sometimes makes it difficult for him to get to his home safely.

669. The authority that may be safely followed by confessors and other
priests in resolving important doubts against a moral judgment is as

(a) If the opinion is supported as morally certain by all or nearly all
of the approved text-books on moral teaching, it may be followed; for
surely there would not be such unanimity, if the objections were really

(b) If the opinion is supported as morally certain by a goodly number
(say, six or seven) of those who are considered as preeminent in Moral
Theology, and who independently arrived at the same conclusion, it may
be followed; for the judgment of many is better than that of one, and
the certainty of authorities should prevail over the doubt of one who
has not the same authority.

(c) If the opinion has the support as certain of only one theologian,
it may be followed without further investigation, if he has received
special mention from the Church as an authority and a safe guide. Thus,
the Holy See has expressly declared that the doctrine of St. Alphonsus
may be safely followed by confessors, and the approbation given to St.
Thomas Aquinas as Universal Doctor makes his word more convincing than
a contrary argument based on one's own reasoning. Of course, this does
not mean that these or any other private Doctors are infallible in
their judgments, or that one should not depart from their teaching in a
point where the Church has decided against them, or where there is a
manifest reason for doing so; it simply means that they are so
conspicuous among moralists for the correctness of their teaching that
one who is in doubt may safely follow them unless the contrary is known
to him.

670. But one may be unable to settle one's difficulty by appeal to
authority, as such, as in the following instances: (a) when the
particular case to be decided is not considered at all in text-books,
or is not considered under the circumstances that exist; (b) when the
authorities speak hesitatingly about the question, and say that the
opinion in question is at most probable, etc.; (c) when the authorities
are about equally divided, as when a few great names are opposed to
many names of inferior rank, or when those who are equal in knowledge
so disagree that half are on one side, half on the other. In counting
authorities, however, it is not always easy to decide who should be
included, as a writer may himself be arguing from the authority of an
individual or of a school, and thus he is not a distinct witness in
favor of what he holds.

671. When a priest or other person sufficiently instructed in theology
is not able to change through recourse to authority an opinionative or
doubtful conscience into a certain conscience, he can still obtain
certitude: (a) directly, by reexamining the question diligently and
with entire impartiality, until he has discovered reasons strong enough
to settle it convincingly one way or the other; (b) indirectly, by
submitting the question to the arbitrament of a reflex principle that
really appears true to him, and permitting it to decide between the
opinion and the objection, or between the contending doubts.

672. The Moral Systems.--There are two general systems regarding reflex
moral principles:

(a) Tutiorism, which teaches that the only principle which can change
uncertainty into certainty is: "When one is undecided between the safer
and the less safe, he must always choose the safer," because only what
is safer excludes the uncertainty of sinning;

(b) Anti-tutiorism, which teaches that the principle given above is
true in a few exceptional cases on account of special reasons, but
untrue as a rule. The general principle which it substitutes for that
of Tutiorism is: "When one is undecided between the safer and the less
safe, one may choose the less safe if it is morally certain."

673. Of two moral judgments that are compared, it must be noted:

(a) that one is safer which departs more from the danger of sin by
deciding for the stricter side. Example: In doubt whether a law exists,
whether it obliges in a present case, whether its obligation is grave,
the safer opinion is that which holds for the affirmative;

(b) that moral judgment is more likely which is supported by stronger
arguments. Example: That a law has ceased, or does not apply in a
certain case, or does not oblige under sin, is a more likely opinion if
the arguments in its favor outweigh those against it.

674. Thus, it may happen that an opinion which is safer is less likely.
Example: The opinion that the precept of repentance obliges under pain
of new sin from the moment a sin is committed is safer, but less likely
than the opposite opinion.

675. Danger of sin is twofold. (a) Danger of formal sin (see 249, 258)
is a risk taken which involves, not only that an act may be unlawful,
but that the doing of it may be unlawful. Example: Caius eats meat,
doubting whether the day is one of abstinence and whether he is obliged
to abstain or not. (b) Danger of material sin (see 249, 258) is the
danger that an act may be unlawful, not in the concrete or as to its
performance, but in the abstract as to itself. Example: Titus is unable
to discover whether this is a day of abstinence, but he is of the
opinion that it is not. Hence, he takes meat, arguing that, while this
may be a violation of the law, he himself is not guilty of sin, since
he feels that he has a right to eat meat under the circumstances.

676. Tutiorism.--This system has been condemned by the Church, and with
good reason, for the following motives:

(a) If by that which is safer, Tutiorism intends that which is better,
it contradicts the Gospel, which distinguishes between counsel and
precept (see 364 sqq.), commanding what is good, but only recommending
what is better.

(b) If by that which is safer Tutiorism means that which favors law
against liberty, it imposes an intolerable yoke on the consciences of
men; for, while law obliges only in so far as it is promulgated and
known, Tutiorism would bind one to observe, not only what was not known
to be obligatory, but what was held to be most probably not obligatory.

677. A modified form of Tutiorism taught: "When one is undecided
between the safer and the less safe, one must choose the safer, unless
the less safe is most probable." This system has not been censured by
the Church, but Catholic theologians with hardly an exception have
rejected it, for the following reasons:

(a) Most probable, as understood by the defenders of this system, is
that which has such likelihood and such appearance of truth as to
remove every probable danger of even material sin. Thus, in reality
this system requires absolute certitude and agrees with the rigorous
tenet of Tutiorism that even a most probable opinion against the law
may not be followed.

(b) Most probable, as commonly understood, is that side of a question
which so far excels the other side that no answer can be given to any
of its arguments, while all the arguments of the other side can be
answered. To require this in moral difficulties is to require the
impossible, for even the greatest theologians have to be content at
times with less.

678. We are obliged always to follow a safe course, that is, not to
expose ourselves to the danger of formal sin (see 249, 258); but
Tutiorism errs when it teaches that we are also obliged always to
follow the safer or safest course, that is, never to expose ourselves
even to the danger of material sin. There are cases, however, when we
are obliged (because some law requires it) to follow a safer course,
that is, not to expose ourselves or others to some great harm. Thus, we
must follow the safer side in the following cases:

(a) when there is question concerning something essential for the
salvation of ourselves or of others, for the law of charity forbids
that any risk be taken in this supremely important matter. Example:
Titus instructs the dying Caius only concerning the existence of God
and of the future life. He should also instruct him about the Trinity
and the Incarnation, which is the safer course, since it is more
probable that an explicit faith in these two mysteries is a condition
of salvation;

(b) when there is question of some great spiritual loss or gain for
ourselves or others, for justice or charity forbids that we take
chances in such affairs. Examples: Sempronia doubts whether she is
excused from the law of abstinence, and whether she will be guilty of
sin if she eats meat. Caius doubts whether attendance at a certain
school will do harm to the religion of his son. Balba doubts whether
she is bound to inquire about the truth of her sect. As long as their
serious doubts remain, these persons should follow the safer course;

(c) when there is question of the validity or invalidity of a
Sacrament, for the virtue of religion requires that the Sacraments be
administered with fidelity, and be not exposed to the peril of nullity.
Example: It is not lawful to consecrate matter that has probably been
substantially adulterated;

(d) when there is question of some temporal good or evil to oneself or
another, and one is certainly obliged to promote the former or prevent
the latter. Examples: Caius suspects that a drink before him is deadly
poison; Titus suspects that an object at which he is preparing to shoot
is a human being. Neither may disregard his suspicion, even if its
contrary is more probable, because the safer side must here be taken.
The Fifth Commandment forbids one needlessly to imperil one's own or
another's life.

679. In emergency one may expose a Sacrament to nullity by taking a
course that is less safe for the Sacrament, but safer for the subject,
relying on the axiom that the Sacraments are for men, and not men for
the Sacraments. Example: Titus is called to baptize the dying Caius. No
water can be procured except rose water, whose sufficiency is doubtful.
Titus not only may, but should, use the doubtful matter, since no other
can be had.

680. Laxism.--The extreme opposite of Tutiorism is Laxism, whose
principle is: "When one is undecided between the safer and the less
safe, one may choose the less safe, if it is only slightly or
uncertainly probable," because whatever seems at all probable may be
prudently followed, and so forms a certain conscience. Example:
According to Laxism, one would be justified in following an opinion,
because it was defended by one theologian, even though he was of little

681. This system has been condemned by the Church for the following

(a) It is contrary to the teaching of the Gospels and of the Fathers,
which requires one to observe the laws of God with understanding and

(b) It leads to corruption of morals. The Laxists of the seventeenth
century were called in derision those "who take away the sins of the
world," and it was against their loose teachings that Pascal inveighed;

(c) Its argument is of no value, for no prudent person would feel that
he should follow what was only slightly above the improbable, or that a
law should be deemed uncertain because an opinion of uncertain
probability could be quoted against it.

682. The true system of reflex principles will lie between the extremes
of Tutiorism and Laxism. As already said, these two doctrines have been
censured by the Church; but there are other systems that are moderate,
and that are permitted by the Church and defended by theologians. These
systems are:

(a) Probabiliorism, whose principle is: "When one is undecided between
the safer and the less safe, one may choose the less safc only when it
is more probable";

(b) Equiprobabilism, whose doctrine is: "When one is undecided between
the safer and the less safe, one may choose the less safe only when it
affirms the non-existence of the law, and is at least equally probable
with the opposite";

(c) Probabilism, whose doctrine is: "When one is undecided between the
safer and the less safe, one may choose the less safe whenever it is
certainly and solidly probable";

(d) Compensationism, whose doctrine is: "When one is undecided between
the safer and the less safe, one may choose the less safe whenever it
is certainly and solidly probable, and there is a proportionate reason
to compensate for the risk taken."

683. Probabiliorism.--The arguments in favor of Probabiliorism are as

(a) extrinsic or from authority. This system is more ancient, and, when
the controversy over systems began in the seventeenth century, this was
the one that was most favored by the Church and theologians;

(b) intrinsic and direct. An essential note of certitude is that it
should exclude all doubt, for as long as doubt remains there is only
opinion. But one who is undecided cannot exclude all doubt, unless the
arguments against the doubts not only balance, but outweigh the latter
(i.e., unless one has greater probability on one's side). Hence, he who
acts against the safer, which is always certain enough, when his own
opinion is not more probable, acts with an uncertain conscience;

(c) intrinsic and indirect. In all other matters a man is not prudent
if he assents to that which is less safe and less probable. Thus, in
things speculative no scholar would think of accepting a theory which
to his knowledge was further removed from the truth; in things
practical no man of common sense would prefer a road that seemed less
likely to lead to his destination. But we should not be less prudent
about the good than we are about the true and the useful. Hence, in
doubt we should always decide in favor of the law, unless the arguments
for liberty are more convincing.

684. The answers given to the above arguments are:

(a) Probabiliorism is not more ancient as a system, since none of the
moral systems were formulated before the sixteenth century; if
Patristic and medieval authorities can be quoted who decided cases
probabilioristically, others who were contemporary can be named who
decided according to milder principles. Moreover, the passages cited
are frequently obscure, and do not necessarily bear a Probabilioristic
sense. That Probabiliorism enjoyed more favor at the beginning of the
controversy is not wonderful, since other systems were more or less
identified with Laxism, and the question at issue had not been studied
thoroughly. Today Probabiliorism has few defenders.

(b) That which is more probable by far, or most probable, does overcome
all doubt, and is even speculatively certain; but he who would require
the more probable in this sense does not differ from the Tutiorists
spoken of above. That which is more probable, but not to a notable
extent, does not exclude all doubt, for the very definition of the more
probable is "that judgment which appears more likely to be true than
another, but which does not exclude all fear that the other may be
true." Hence, if Probabiliorism calls for the notably more probable, it
does not differ from Tutiorism; if it calls for the moderately more
probable, it wrongly claims that there is no probability on the
opposite side.

(c) The true is that which is in harmony with facts, the useful that
which conduces to the obtaining of an end, the good that which is in
conformity with law. Certainly, a man is not a prudent seeker of truth
if he arbitrarily prefers the less to the more true-seeming, nor a
prudent seeker of the useful if he chooses the less safe way of
obtaining what is a necessary end; but a man can be a prudent seeker of
the good, even though he prefers the less safe and less probable, when
the law itself, the norm of good, does not demand more from him. Hence,
one who makes a judgment according to the anti-Probabiliorist systems
does not feel that he is yielding assent to what is speculatively less
probable; but that he is making a decision that is practically certain;
not that he is choosing a perilous way, but one that is absolutely safe.

685. Arguments against Probabiliorism.--(a) Theoretical Objection.--The
principle of Probabiliorism that it is lawful to act against the safer
side when the less safe side is more probable, cannot be justified
except on the ground that invincible ignorance of obligation exists,
and hence that the law does not oblige. But the same argument can be
used in favor of milder systems; for even if the less safe side is only
probable, it makes one invincibly ignorant that one is obliged. Hence,
the basis of Probabiliorism is fatal to its own claims.

(b) Practical Objection.--A system for the direction of conscience
should be so simple that it can be easily applied in the everyday
affairs of life. Abstract questions may receive attention from
moralists for days and months, but concrete cases have to be decided as
a rule without delay. But Probabiliorism is such a complicated system
that it is unsuited to everyday life. St. Alphonsus declares that he
found by the experience of many years that this system cannot be
profitably used in the guidance of souls, for it imposes an intolerable
burden on both confessors and penitents. And how few are so skilled as
to be able to decide quickly, without scruples, and correctly about the
relative degrees of probability in opposite opinions!

686. Answers of the Probabiliorists.--(a) A probable opinion against
the existence of obligation does not create invincible ignorance, but
only doubt; nor does a more probable opinion against obligation create
invincible ignorance, since it excludes the less probable opinion for
obligation, and makes one assent unwaveringly and in good faith, even
though erroneously, to the judgment that one is not bound.

(b) It is no more difficult to decide what is more probable than to
decide what is equally probable, or truly and solidly probable; nor is
the same skill and attention expected in all persons and cases, but
each person must judge according to the best light he has, and each
case must receive the measure of attention its importance calls for. If
Probabiliorists may become scrupulous, may not Probabilists become lax?

687. The debate between Probabiliorism and its adversaries is not often
heard today, as most modern moralists give their allegiance either to
Equiprobabilism (a modified Probabiliorism) or to Probabilism.

688. Equiprobabilism.--The doctrine of Equiprobabilism is a middle way
between Probabiliorism and Probabilism. Thus: (a) it agrees with
Probabiliorism in holding that it is not lawful to follow the less
safe, if the safer is more probable, or if the safer is equally
probable, and the question is about the cessation of the law; (b) it
agrees with Probabilism in holding that it is lawful to follow the less
safe, if the safer is only equally probable, and the question is about
the existence of the law.

689. The principle that "it is not lawful to follow the less safe, if
the safer is equally probable and the question is about the cessation
of the law," is defended as follows by Equiprobabilists:

(a) In real doubt we should decide in favor of that side which is
possession. But, when doubt is about the cessation of a law, the law is
in possession; for there is no question that it was made. Therefore, in
such a doubt we should decide for the safer side, that is, that the law
has not ceased.

(b) A certain obligation is not complied with by a doubtful
fulfillment. But doubts about the cessation of the obligation of law
usually arise from a probability that one has already fulfilled the
law. Therefore in such cases we should decide that the law has not been
fulfilled--that is, that its obligation has not ceased.

690. The Probabilists reply that: (a) it is not true that, in
equiprobability about the cessation of law, the law is in possession;
for liberty is naturally prior to law, and hence has possession in
doubt; (b) nor is it true that an obligation that has probably been
complied with or removed is certain.

691. The Equiprobabilists answer: (a) liberty was in possession, until
it was dispossessed by the making of the law; (b) an obligation that
certainly existed must be held as certainly in existence, until the
contrary is proved; whereas a fact, such as dispensation, abrogation,
or fulfillment, is not proved if it is only probable.

692. The principle that "it is lawful to follow the less safe side, if
the safer is only equally probable and the question is about the
existence of the law," is defended as follows by Equiprobabilists:

(a) In real doubt we should favor the side that is in possession. But
when doubt is about the existence of a law, liberty is in possession;
for liberty is prior to law. Therefore, in such doubt we may decide
that there is no obligation.

(b) An uncertain law does not oblige, if one is invincibly ignorant of
its existence. But, when there are equiprobable reasons against the
existence of a law, one is invincibly ignorant of its existence.
Therefore, in such cases one is not obliged.

693. The principle that "it is not lawful to follow the less safe side
if the safer side is more probable," is defended as follows by

(a) In doubt improperly so called--that is, in that condition of mind
in which there is no fluctuation between equal arguments, but only some
indecision between the more and the less probable--we should decide in
favor of the more probable, as being morally certain. Hence, it is not
lawful to follow what is less safe and less probable.

(b) A law sufficiently promulgated obliges. But, when it is more
probable that a law was made or is in force, such law is sufficiently
promulgated to the conscience. Hence, the safer side must be followed,
if it is more probable.

694. Probabilist Criticism of the Foregoing Arguments.

(a) If the excess of the more probable over the less probable is so
great that the latter is only slightly or doubtfully probable, the more
probable is equivalent to certitude; for certitude is assent without
fear of the opposite, and the fear of the opposite in such a case would
be so slight that it may be considered as non-existent. If the excess
is not so great, the less probable remains solidly and certainly
probable, and the more probable is not certitude, but opinion (that is,
assent with fear of the opposite). The Equiprobabilists are speaking of
greater probability in the second sense, and hence they are wrong when
they identify it with certitude (see above, 654).

(b) A law must be so promulgated to the conscience that one knows the
law or could know it with sufficient diligence; it does not suffice
that one can get no further than opinion. It would be unreasonable to
oblige one to observe not only what is the law, but also what seems to
be the law. Now, he who has only more probable opinion that he is bound
by some law, does not know that such obligation exists; he only knows
that it seems to exist.

695. Reply of the Equiprobabilists.-(a) The more probable always
removes the appearance of truth from the less probable. Hence, he who
recognizes an opinion as more probable can assent to it without any
fear of error.

(b) One who holds it as more probable that he is obliged by a certain
law, does not know for certain that he is obliged by reason of that
law; but he does know for certain that he is obliged by reason of a
higher law. Superior to every particular law is the general law that
nothing may be done that will deprive law of its efficacy. But law
loses its efficacy if each one is free to decide that he is not bound
even when the greater weight of probability is to the contrary.

696. General Arguments in Favor of Equiprobabilism.--(a) From
Authority.--St. Alphonsus Liguori, who holds a unique place in the
Church as a moralist, preferred Equiprobabilism to every other moral
system; and his views are followed not only by his own Congregation,
the Redemptorists, but by many others.

(b) From Comparison with Other Systems.--Truth lies midway between
extremes; for truth is lost either by exaggeration or by defect. But
Equiprobabilism is a happy medium between Probabiliorism inclining to
Rigorism, and Probabilism inclining towards Laxism. Hence, the relation
of Equiprobabilism to other systems is in its favor.

(c) From the Character of Its Teaching.--According to principles of
justice universally admitted as true, a judge should pronounce sentence
in favor of the more probable when there is evidence of unequal weight
and in favor of that which is in possession when there is evidence of
equal weight. But these principles ought to be of universal
application. Therefore, Equiprobabilism does right in making these the
guiding principles for the court of conscience.

697. Probabilist Criticism of these Arguments.--(a) St. Alphonsus is
one of the greatest moral theologians of the Church. Whether in his
later years (1762-1787) he taught Equiprobabilism, is a matter of
dispute among those who are familiar with his writings. But there is no
doubt that in his mature age (1749-1762), when he wrote his Moral
Theology, he was a Probabilist.

(b) Probabilism can likewise claim that it stands midway between the
extremes of Rigorism (represented by Probabiliorism and
Equiprobabilism), on the one side, and of Laxism, on the other side.

(c) The principle of possession invoked by Equiprobabilism applies to
matters of justice, because there is a presumption that he who holds
property has a right to it, and also because human laws must favor him
who is in possession, lest property rights be left uncertain and
disputes be multiplied. The principle of possession does not apply,
however, to other matters; if the law obliged one yesterday, how can
that create a presumption that it obliges one today, if one has good
reasons for thinking the obligation has ceased? And as for human
ordinances, while they have jurisdiction over external goods and may
award them in case of doubt to the possessor, they have not, and have
never claimed, the right to make the principle of possession a rule for
solving all difficulties about duty.

The principle of Probabiliorism for which the Equiprobabilists claim
the authority of judicial practice certainly does not apply to criminal
cases, for in these preponderance of evidence against an accused is not
to be followed if there is a reasonable doubt. In civil cases judges
apply the principle of probabiliorism, but it does not follow that
conscience should do the same, for the circumstances are different. The
judge is seeking to decide which of two litigants has the more likely
claim, and hence he is bound to declare for the side that has stronger
evidence. Conscience is seeking to decide whether an obligation is
certain or uncertain, and hence it is not obliged to decide for
obligation when this is more probable, but still not certain.

698. Answer of Equiprobabilists to this Criticism.--(a) Granted that
St. Alphonsus once held Probabilism, he rejected it later emphatically,
and when dying declared that his former defense of Probabilism was the
only thing that gave him anxiety.

(b) Equiprobabilism is further removed from Rigorism than Probabilism
is from Laxism. It hears both sides of the question--that for liberty
and that for law--before it decides. Probabilism is satisfied to hear
one side, that for liberty; or at least it does not compare the two

(c) The principle of possession is applied more strictly in cases of
justice; for, since justice implies a more exact equality and a more
rigorous right than other virtues (see 154), disputes in matters of
justice demand stronger proofs. But every virtue renders to someone his
due, and hence there is no reason why principles applicable to justice
should not be applicable to other virtues also. The principle of
Probabiliorism, likewise, is just as applicable to the court of
conscience as to the civil court, since in both courts the aim is to
get the truth as nearly as possible.

699. General Arguments Against Equiprobabilism.--(a) Theoretical
Objection.--If we judge Equiprobabilism by its arguments, we find it
unconvincing, for that which is old in it does not agree with that
which is new, and that which is new argues equally well for
Probabilism. Thus, the old arguments for Probabiliorism mean in the
last analysis that the greater probability deprives the opposite side
of all solid probability; logically, then, one should conclude that
equal probability deprives both sides of all solid probability, since
one neutralizes the other. The new arguments are drawn from the
principles that in doubt one should decide in favor of the side in
possession, that a doubtful law does not oblige, etc.--all of which
principles, as we shall see, favor Probabilism.

(b) Practical Objection.--If we judge Equiprobabilism by its
adaptibility for use, we find it wanting. A moral system should be one
that can be easily understood and applied, otherwise it is unworkable
and useless. But Equiprobabilism is so complicated and abstruse that
even the professional theologians who hold it are often at a loss how
to apply it, and are found to give inconsistent decisions. How can it
be expected, then, that anyone else will be able to decide whether the
law or liberty is is possession, whether the degree of probability on
one side is greater than or equal to that on the other, whether the
question has to do with the existence of the law or its cessation, etc.?

700. Replies of the Equiprobabilists.--(a) The old (i.e.,
probabilioristic) principles of Equiprobabilism are not contrary to the
new. A more probable opinion not only balances the opposition by its
equal arguments, and thus puts away doubt, but it also wins assent by
the surplus in its favor, and thus certitude is had. When the two
opposites are equally probable, there is a state of true doubt, but
certitude is had by recourse to the principles of possession and
doubtful law. These principles proper to Equiprobabilism do not favor
Probabilism, if one is impartial in one's use of them, and willing to
use them against as well as for liberty.

(b) Equiprobabilism is not more difficult in its application than
Probabilism. It does not require that one determine minutely and
exactly the greater or equal probability of the arguments for law and
for liberty, or that one devote extraordinary diligence to the solution
of the problem. All it requires is that one consider the matter
seriously, weigh the arguments on both sides impartially, and decide to
the best of one's ability which side appears to be more probable or to
have the presumption in its favor.

701. Probabilism.--The meaning of Probabilism can be seen from a
comparison with the opposite systems. (a) Unlike Probabiliorism and
Equiprobabilism, Probabilism does not require a greater or equal
probability, but permits one to follow what is less probable; (b)
unlike Laxism, it does not allow one to follow what is only slightly or
uncertainly probable, or to apply the system to all cases of doubt.

702. A judgment is probable when it is supported by arguments that make
it seem true, although there may remain reasons for doubt. Examples are
conclusions based on analogy, on hypothesis, on the opinions of others,
or on the calculus of probabilities.

703. Probability is of various kinds. (a) It is absolute or relative,
according as the supporting reasons are grave, either when considered
alone, or when compared with the objections. Even the Probabiliorists
admit that an opinion that is merely probable may be followed, if it is
solidly probable and there is no argument against it (see 649). (b) We
have solid or slight probability, according as the supporting motives
are or are not such as would move, if not convince, a prudent man--that
is, a man who shows good judgment in most things. (c) We have certain
or uncertain probability, according as a person is sure or not, after
reasonable consideration, that the arguments seem valid and the opinion
likely. (d) Probability is internal or external, according as the
arguments are drawn from the matter at issue itself (i.e., from its
nature, properties, causes, effects, etc.) or from the authority of the
doctors who have defended an opinion.

704. Relative probability according to logicians remains even when a
lesser is compared with a greater probability. (a) If the opposing
arguments are drawn from different sources, the more probable does not
attack the less probable, and hence does not weaken its probability.
Example: An intrinsic argument has more weight than a mere appeal to
authority, but it does not attack the opposite argument, and hence does
not diminish its probability. (b) If the opposing arguments are drawn
from the same source, each one weakens the opposite, since there is
direct opposition. But the more probable does not destroy the less
probable, since, in spite of the greater appearance of truth on the one
side, there still remains room for the possibility that the other side
may be true.

705. A moral judgment is solidly probable when the following conditions
are present:

(a) For the judgment there must be an intrinsic or extrinsic argument
that would be considered weighty by a prudent man. Example: An opinion
that has the support of a universally acknowledged authority is
strongly probable, whereas, if it has only the support of one obscure
writer, it is only slightly probable.

(b) Against the judgment there must be no decisive argument from
authority or reason. Example; The judgment that a certain course of
action is lawful because St. Alphonsus permits it, is ordinarily
solidly probable; it is not probable, however, if the opinion of St.
Alphonsus (e.g., that Catholics may act as sponsors in non-Catholic
baptisms) has been disallowed by the Church, or if the argument he uses
(e.g., that concerning the amount that constitutes grave matter in
theft, which reasons from conditions in his day) is not strong.

(c) The arguments for the judgment must retain their probability, if
they are set over against the arguments for the opposite. Manifestly,
if the arguments are all satisfactorily answered by the opposite side,
the judgment based on them ceases to retain the appearance of truth.
Probabilism does not require, however, that one determine the relative
degrees of probability in opposite opinions.

706. It is not sufficient according to the Probabilists that another be
certain of the probability of an opinion; but the person who follows
the opinion must himself be certain that it is solidly probable.

707. Regarding the kind of authority necessary to make an opinion
solidly probable from external evidence, Probabilism teaches:

(a) that absolute probability (that is, such a weight of authority as
would appear strong even to the most learned) ought to be estimated by
quality rather than quantity--by the learning, prudence, impartiality,
and independent study of the authors, rather than by their numbers. If
five distinguished moralists arrive by separate study at the same
conclusion (i.e., that an opinion is probable), or if one of special
reputation in a matter under question supports the probability of an
opinion, the argument from authority is strong;

(b) that relative probability (that is, such a weight of authority as
suffices for one who is unlearned, such as a child, a halfwit, an
uneducated person) is had sufficiently through the word of only one
person who is looked up to as a guide or instructor, such as a parent,
confessor, or teacher.

708. Probabilism supposes that one regards the opinion one follows as
truly probable, and that one is convinced that it is lawful to follow
such an opinion. Hence, the system does not apply in certain cases.

(a) It does not apply to cases in which there is no probability on
either side--that is, to cases of negative doubt (see 656 sqq.),
whether the doubt be of law or of fact.

(b) Probabilism does not apply to cases in which there is only slight
or uncertain probability for the less safe side. Example: Caius has
heard that a certain novel opinion is defended by a recent author, but
he is uncertain of the author's standing as a theologian, and he
realizes that the fact that a man has written a book does not make his
ideas solidly probable.

(c) Probabilism does not apply to cases in which there is solid
probability for the less safe side, but one doubts whether one can
lawfully follow it; for it is always sinful to act with a doubtful
conscience (see 641 sqq.). Example: Caius has read in a reliable work
of theology that a person in certain circumstances, which are his own,
is probably excused from Mass. But the word "probably" makes him
uncertain whether he can follow this opinion.

709. For the above-mentioned cases, to which their principle does not
apply, Probabilists refer to the rules for a doubtful conscience (see
656 sqq.). The following special rules are given for cases of negative

(a) If the doubt is one of law and insoluble, one is free to act; for
it is a general principle that an act may be considered lawful, as long
as there is no serious reason to the contrary. Example: Sempronius goes
out into the country on Sunday afternoon. An opportunity to fish
presents itself, but Sempronius begins to doubt whether there is or is
not a church law against fishing on Sundays. As no argument for either
side is known to him, he may act on the general principle that what is
not forbidden is lawful.

(b) If the doubt is one of fact and insoluble, and a prohibitory law is
involved, one is free to act; for it is commonly admitted that
legislators do not intend their prohibitions, which are restrictions of
liberty, to be interpreted with the utmost rigor. Example: Titus is
eating a chicken dinner late on Thursday night when his watch stops. As
he has no way of discovering the time, he does not know whether Friday
or the end of the dinner will arrive first. He may continue the meal,
making no undue delays.

(c) If the doubt is one of fact, and a preceptive law is in question,
one must take reasonable precautions to settle the doubt; for the
lawgiver wills that those who are subject to the law should make use of
the ordinary means to learn the facts on which obligation depends (see
above, 384). If the doubt remains insoluble, one may decide in favor of
liberty; for it may reasonably be presumed that the legislator does not
intend to obligate those whose obligation remains uncertain. Example:
Caius doubts whether he has reached the age of sixty, when the
obligation of fasting ends. He should try to discover his real age;
but, if he can find no real proofs either for or against the age of
sixty, he may decide in favor of sixty, if there are some indications
that he is of that age.

710. The solutions given above for cases of negative doubt suppose that
there is no other or higher law that forbids one to take the risk of
deciding in favor of liberty. Hence, in the following instances one
must decide against liberty:

(a) in negative doubts when the validity of acts is at stake. Example:
Titus is uncertain whether the law requires the age of fourteen for a
valid contract of marriage; he is also uncertain whether he is fourteen
years old. The doubt of law and of fact does not excuse Titus from the
law, if he wishes to marry. He must clear up the doubts, and if
necessary he must secure a dispensation.

(b) in negative doubts when reasons of charity or justice forbid one to
take risks. Example: Caius is uncertain whether he paid Sempronius for
work done for him. He is bound to make inquiries about the matter.

711. Probabilism cannot be applied, therefore, when the mental state of
the subject is doubt, weakly founded opinion, or practical uncertainty.
But, even when one holds an opinion as solidly and certainly probable,
one may not follow it as a moral guide, if there is something in the
nature of the object or matter itself which forbids this.

(a) A probability of law favoring liberty may not be followed in those
matters in which some natural, divine or human law requires one to
follow the safer side (see cases enumerated above, 678, 661). Example:
The following opinions are probable; that instruction regarding the
Trinity and the Incarnation is not indispensable for salvation; that
rye-bread is valid matter for the Eucharist. But in practice it would
be unlawful to take the risk of following these opinions, except in
cases of extreme necessity, when nothing else can be done.

(b) A probability of fact favoring liberty may not be followed so long
as there remains nothing more than probability of fact; for, while the
will of the lawgiver may on account of probability of non-obligation
change one's relation to the law from obligation to non-obligation, it
does not change facts. Examples: On Friday Titus doubts whether a dish
before him is meat or fish; probably it is meat on account of its
appearance, probably it is fish on account of its odor. At night Fr.
Caius is much fatigued, and doubts whether he has said Vespers.
Probably he did not, because he cannot recall what feast will be
celebrated tomorrow; probably he did, because he remembers having said

712. For probabilities of fact, to which as such their system does not
apply, Probabilists offer the following solutions:

(a) In certain cases one may take from the doubt of fact its bearing on
obligation, by recourse to the manifest will of the legislator as
declared in the law itself or expressed through dispensation. Examples:
While hearing confessions, Sempronius doubts whether his jurisdiction
has already expired. He cannot recall the date of expiration, but,
thinking the matter over, he sees that probably the date has not
arrived. His difficulty is therefore solved, for the Code (Canon 209)
supplies jurisdiction in cases of probability of fact. Titus and Caia
wish to marry. There is a doubt whether or not they are first cousins,
but it seems that probably they are not so related. Their difficulty is
solved by obtaining a dispensation.

(b) In other cases one may change the probability of fact into a
probability of law by recourse to a probable opinion or argument that
under the existing doubt of fact the legislator does not wish the law
to oblige. Examples: Titus, who has what is probably lawful food before
him, argues with himself that it is not likely that the Church wills to
put him to the expense, trouble, and loss of time required to order
other food. Fr. Titus, who has probably said Vespers, argues that
theologians of authority teach that, when there is a serious reason for
thinking one has performed such an obligation, it may be presumed that
the Church does not require more.

713. If a case of probability of fact on which obligation hinges cannot
be solved by recourse to the expressed or inferred will of the
lawgiver, one has no choice but to follow the safer side, for then,
though it is probable that a certain thing is a fact, it is not
probable that one has a right to act. Example: Sempronius, while
hunting, sees an object moving in the bushes. The probabilities are
that it is not a human being, but it is not probable that Sempronius
has the right to risk homicide by firing at it.

714. Not all Probabilists use the principle of the presumptive will of
the lawgiver for all cases of negative doubt; some employ different
principles for different kinds of doubt, and sometimes arrive at other
decisions than those given in the preceding paragraphs. Thus, they give
such rules as the following:

(a) In negative doubt of law regarding the lawfulness of an act, use
the principle that law or liberty should be followed according as one
or the other is in possession (see 660). Example: He who has only
slight reasons for thinking that a law exists, or that it is of grave
obligation, or that it extends to his case, etc., may decide against
the law. But he who has only slight reasons for thinking that a law has
been abrogated, or that a dispensation has been granted, etc., must
decide for obligation.

(b) In negative doubt of law regarding the validity of a past act, use
the principle _that what was done is to be held as rightly done_.
Example: He who has no reasons, or only trifling ones, for thinking
that a Sacrament was not administered validly or received validly,
should decide for validity.

(c) In negative doubts of fact, use the principles that one should
judge according to what usually happens, or that facts must not be
taken for granted but must be established, or that presumption favors
that which has possession. Examples: If there is no good reason to
think that a conscientious person gave consent to a temptation, one may
decide for the negative, since that would usually be true. If there is
no good reason to think that one has made a vow, one may decide for the
negative, since the burden of proof is with the other side. If, in a
question about fast and abstinence, it is uncertain whether or not a
person has reached twenty-one years, or whether Friday has commenced,
the presumption is for the negative, since liberty has been in
possession; but if it is uncertain whether a person has reached the age
of sixty or whether Friday has ended, the presumption is for the
negative, since the law has been in possession.

715. Having discussed the cases to which Probabilism is not extended,
we pass on to the cases to which it is applied. Probabilism is used in
any and every case where speculative certainty as to what is lawful or
unlawful is not had, but where there is only speculative probability
against an opposite probability.

(a) Probabilism is used not only in probability of law, but also in
probability of fact that can be reduced to probability of law, as was
explained above (see 712).

(b) Probabilism is used in probability of law, whether or not the
question be about the existence or the cessation of the law. There is
probability against existence of law, when one has good reason to think
that a law was not made or not promulgated, or that the time when it
goes into force has not arrived, or that it does not apply to certain
persons or circumstances, etc.; there is probability for cessation of
law, when it is certain that a law did exist, but one has good reason
to think that it ceased or was abrogated, that one is excused or
dispensed from it.

(c) Probabilism is used in probability of law, whether the law in
question be natural, divine or human--that is, in every case of law
where invincible ignorance is possible (see 319 sqq., 356).

716. The claim of Probabilism is that, in all the cases given above, he
who follows an opinion excusing him from obligation, may act with a
practically certain conscience and be free of all moral guilt, if the
opinion is theoretically and seriously probable. The arguments for this
thesis are of two kinds: (a) extrinsic proofs, from the approval given
Probabilism by the Church and the favor it has enjoyed among moralists;
(b) intrinsic proofs, from the nature of law and obligation, and the
superiority of Probabilism in practice.

717. Extrinsic Arguments.--(a) The Church gave explicit approval to
Probabilism by praising the theological works of St. Alphonsus in which
Probabilism is defended; she gave and continues to give implicit
approval by the freedom she has granted to the teachers of this system
from the days of Bartholomew Medina, its first expounder (1527-1581),
down to the present. The Church even makes use of the principles of
Probabilism in interpreting her own laws, as is evidenced by such rules
of law as the following in the Decretals: "Things that are odious
should be understood strictly, things that are favorable widely" (Rule
15); "Where the law is doubtful, follow the minimum" (Rule 30); "Where
the lawgiver could have spoken more clearly, the interpretation should
be against him" (Rule 57); "The kinder interpretation should be given
penal laws" (Rule 89).

(b) In the Patristic and medieval periods Probabilism had not been
scientifically formulated, but many of the Fathers and early Doctors
solved cases probabilistically, and there are not a few passages in the
great theologians before the sixteenth century which enunciate the same
principles as those advocated by Probabilists. When the system was
formulated by Medina in 1577, it met with universal favor among
Catholic moralists, and, though it suffered an eclipse from the middle
of the seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth century, it has been
growing in influence since the days of St. Alphonsus, and appears today
to have recovered its former preeminence. Among its adherents are some
of the greatest names in the history of theology, and it is not
confined to any particular school or body.

718. Objections of Equiprobabilists.--(a) The praise given to St.
Alphonsus by the Church reflects no glory on Probabilism, since the
Saint rejected Probabilism and professed Equiprobabilism. Further, more
than one Pope, and especially Innocent XI (1676-1689), has expressed a
dislike for Probabilism, while the silence of others does not mean more
than toleration. The legal axioms used by canonists apply to the
external forum, and cannot be used equally in the forum of conscience.
(b) Probabiliorism had the field before Probabilism, having been
formulated and defended before Medina appeared, and it is that more
ancient system that is represented today in a milder form as

719. Answer of the Probabilists.--(a) St. Alphonsus teaches Probabilism
in his Moral Theology, which is his chief work; if later, in his old
age, he was an Equiprobabilist, it can be shown that the change was not
free, but under compulsion. As to Pope Innocent XI, he is the only Pope
who expressed disapproval of Probabilism, and even he refrained from
any official pronouncement. The fact that hundreds of works written by
Probabilists since the sixteenth century have not been censured or
forbidden by the Church authorities, indicates more than mere

(b) Probabiliorism, as a systematized method, preceded Probabilism as a
systematized method only by a brief interval, if at all. Before the
16th century neither of these systems had been formulated, and neither
can make much of the argument of priority in time. As for
Equiprobabilism, it is first seen in the writings of Christopher
Rassler (about 1713) and of Eusebius Amort (1692-1775).

720. Intrinsic Arguments for Probabilism.--(a) Theoretical
Argument.--An uncertain law does not oblige. But a law is uncertain if
there is a solidly probable opinion against its existence, or for its
cessation, even though the other side be equally or more probable.
Therefore, he who follows such an opinion does not violate any

(b) Practical Argument.--Probabiliorism and Equiprobabilism impose on
confessors and the faithful impossible burdens, since, as was explained
above (see 683 sqq.), they require that one compare and weigh
probabilities, decide whether or not possession is had by the law or by
liberty, etc.; whereas Probabilism is simple and easily applied,
requiring only that one be convinced that one's opinion is really
probable, and that one use it in good faith.

721. The proposition that an uncertain law does not oblige (saving
cases of validity, etc., as above, 678), is defended as follows:

(a) If the uncertainty arises from the law itself, because it has not
been clearly worded or sufficiently promulgated, the truth of the
proposition is manifest, for the very nature of law requires that it be
brought to the knowledge of those for whom it is made (see 285).

(b) If the uncertainty arises from the invincible ignorance of one who
is subject to the law, the proposition is true in the sense that no one
is a transgressor in the internal forum who fails against a law
unwittingly (see 327, 489 sqq.). But an act that transgresses no law is
lawful in conscience, for all that is not forbidden is lawful.

722. The adversaries of Probabilism offer the following criticism:

(a) As to the proposition that "an uncertain law does not oblige," the
use of this principle by Probabilism may be considered as a begging of
the whole question; for what is in dispute is whether, in case a law is
uncertain, there is or is not a higher law that requires one to decide
for obligation. It can be shown, however, that there is such a higher
law; for the legislator cannot be willing that his ordinances be at the
mercy of every uncertainty or loophole which subtle minds can devise,
and God cannot be willing that those who are subject to laws should
expose themselves to sin by deciding against a law because it appears
to them to be of doubtful obligation.

(b) As to the proofs given for that proposition, they proceed from an
incomplete enumeration, for a law can be doubtful on account of
vincible ignorance, as well as for the reasons given. And no one will
maintain that vincible ignorance excuses.

723. The Probabilists reply: (a) The principle that "an uncertain law
does not oblige," cannot render law nugatory, since there is question
here only of honest doubt, not of pretended or responsible ignorance.
Neither can that principle expose one to the danger of formal sin (see
249), since it is supposed that he who follows it is convinced that it
is true, and that he has the right to regulate his conduct by it. It
does expose to the danger of material sin (see 249), since the law
about which there is uncertainty may be existent; but we are not
obliged to avoid every danger of material sin, else we should be under
the intolerable necessity of fulfilling not only all certain, but all
uncertain duties. Moreover, the danger of material sin is not avoided
by any moral system except Tutiorism, since even equiprobable and more
probable opinions may be false.

(b) The enumeration of cases of doubtful law is sufficient; for, as
just remarked, only those cases are being considered in which one is
judging about one's duty in good faith.

724. The second proposition used above as the Minor of the argument for
Probabilism--that "a law is uncertain whenever there is a solidly
probable opinion against its existence or for its cessation"--is
defended by the very definition of the term "uncertain."

A thing is said to be accepted as certain when one yields it firm
assent and has no serious misgivings that it may be false; hence, the
uncertain is that which is not assented to firmly (the doubtful), or
that which does not exclude serious doubts about its truth (matter of
opinion). Now, a law whose existence or obligation seems likely, but
against which there militates a solidly probable argument, is not so
firmly established as to inhibit every prudent doubt. In other words,
such a law is uncertain.

725. Criticism of the Argument in the Preceding Paragraph.--(a) The
supposition on which the argument rests is false. It supposes that the
interpretation of the legal axiom that "a doubtful law does not
oblige," should be drawn from the philosophical definition of the
terms, whereas it should be drawn from the sense given it by other
rules of law. Now, there are canonical rules which declare that in
doubt one should follow that which has possession, or that which seems
more probable. Hence, the axiom quoted by the Probabilists refers only
to cases of negative doubt; the other two rules refer to cases of doubt
in the wide sense, or to cases of opinion; otherwise, we should have to
admit that these legal maxims are contradictory, one to the other.
Thus, it appears that Probabilism is based on a principle formulated to
solve difficulties of an entirely different kind from those which the
system deals with.

(b) The argumentation itself is fallacious. It takes for granted that
an opinion is certainly and solidly probable, not only when it has no
opposite or when its opposite is less probable, but also when its
opposite is equally or more probable. This cannot be. Solid probability
on the other side of a question must create doubt about an opinion
held, and so make it at best uncertainly probable or probably probable;
while greater likelihood or presumption on the other side must make
one's own opinion appear imprudent and unworthy of a rational being,
and therefore not solidly probable.

726. The Probabilists answer: (a) The two principles with reference to
doubtful law are understood and proved by Probabilism by an analysis of
the notions of obligation and incertitude (see 285, 654), and hence
they apply to every case that is restricted to the question of probable
lawfulness or unlawfulness.

The rules quoted against Probabilism--there are some that might also be
quoted against Probabiliorism and Equiprobabilism--are opposed to it
only in appearance, since they deal with matters that are outside its
sphere (see 697). Thus, in civil cases when both ownership and
possession are doubtful, the decision must be given for the more
probable side, since the issue is not what is lawful, but what seems to
be true. As to the principle of possession, it is not, as supposed,
unfavorable, but favorable to Probabilism; since liberty, inasmuch as
it is presupposed by obligation (for only those who have freedom can
receive obligation), has priority and must be given the benefit of the
doubt, whenever a strictly probable reason in its favor cannot be

(b) Solid probability for the law creates doubt of the truth of the
opinion for liberty, but it does not create doubt of its probability;
for truth is the agreement of one's judgment with the facts,
probability the appearance of such agreement on account of the
arguments by which the judgment is supported. Hence, greater
probability for law does not make uncertain the probability there is
for liberty. Neither is it a sign of imprudence to accept the less
probable, if one has sincerely and diligently sought the truth; for
even the more probable may not be true, and the great majority of
moralists hold that one is not obliged to follow it.

727. Criticism of the Pragmatic Test Offered by
Probabilists.--Probabilism boasts of the ease with which it can be used
(see 700, 720); but the ease with which it can be misused is greater

(a) Persons not inclined to piety must quickly fall into Laxism, if
they make use of this system, for they will accustom themselves to find
every sort of pretext to escape unwelcome duties by raising doubts and
dignifying them with the name of probable opinions; they will follow,
now one opinion, now its contrary, according as it suits their
interests; they will become stubborn in their own views, and unwilling
to change or accept instruction.

(b) Persons inclined to piety, if guided by Probabilist principles,
will soon lose all interest in what is higher and better, and content
themselves with the minimum; for in every case of uncertainty
Probabilism permits one to choose what is less safe and less probable.

728. General Answer of the Probabilists to the Objections of the
Preceding Paragraph.--(a) The history of Probabilism contradicts these
objections. From its beginning to the present day it has been defended
and followed by men noted for piety, who used kindness towards others,
but were severe with themselves. While the principles of stricter
systems have proved a torture both to confessors and penitents, no
detriment to holiness is observed from the use of Probabilism.

(b) The nature of Probabilism refutes the objections in question. There
is no system so good that it may not be perverted and turned to evil,
and stricter systems have been converted into Tutiorism or Rigorism.
But the logical and usual results of Probabilism are not a lowering of
moral standards. If these evils follow it, they do so only when it is
not rightly understood or not rightly applied.

729. The charges of a tendency to Laxism are thus answered:

(a) Probabilism holds that only learned theologians are judges of
internal probability. Others must not decide for themselves, but must
seek instruction from their spiritual guides who have competent
knowledge. The moralists themselves must not be so wedded to their
opinions that they are not always ready to change when they find they
are wrong or learn that the Church does not admit their view.

(b) Probabilism permits one to use contrary probable opinions in
different instances (e.g., to use for one will or testament the opinion
that informality makes it invalid, and for another will the opinion
that informality does not make it invalid); but it does not permit
contrary opinions to be used in the same case for one's advantage
(e.g., to use the opinion that an informal will is valid, in order to
secure an inheritance, and at the same time to use the opinion that it
is invalid, in order to escape the payment of legacies).

(c) Probabilism does not sanction the use of a probable opinion, unless
it has been examined without prejudice, and has been honestly judged to
be of certain and solid value (see 708 sqq.). Neither does it approve
of the conduct of those who put themselves voluntarily in a state of
doubt. On the contrary, it considers such conduct as sinful, and as
gravely so, if the matter be serious and if this occur frequently.
Example; Titus is uncertain whether three hours remain before Communion
time, and yet he takes some refreshment, and thus makes it doubtful
whether he has the right to receive Communion. The principle that a
doubtful law does not oblige will enable Titus to receive Communion,
but it does not excuse him from venial sin in putting himself without
cause in a state of doubt and in danger of material sin.

730. The charge of a tendency to minimism in spiritual matters is thus
answered: Probabilism deals only with what is lawful, not with what is
better; it aims to show only what one may do without sin, not what one
ought to do in order to become perfect. Hence, it is used when there is
question of imposing obligations, or of deciding whether a certain
course is lawful; for in these matters one must be kind, lest by
exceeding one's authority one drive others to sin; but it is not used
when there is question of giving spiritual advice and direction, for
here all should be exhorted to seek after progress in holiness.

731. Compensationism.--Between 1850 and 1880 a number of theologians,
feeling that there were serious difficulties against all the systems up
to then considered, developed a reformed or restricted Probabilism,
which would not be open to the criticisms made against ordinary
Probabilism, and yet would have those good qualities that make it
preferable to the stricter systems. This new doctrine is called
Compensationism, because it permits one to follow a probable opinion
against the law only when there is present a sufficient reason to
compensate for this course of action.

732. The following rules are, therefore, given as restrictions on the
use of Probabilism: (a) the more serious or the more probable the
doubtful law, the greater the reason must be to justify one in acting
against it; (b) the higher and greater the good to be obtained from the
exercise of freedom against a doubtful law, the less the reason that
suffices for exercising freedom.

733. Illustrations of the Use of Compensationism.--(a) Titus, a poor
man, is in uncertainty, through no fault of his own, about two debts.
He thinks it more probable that he owes $10 to Sempronius, and 10 cents
to Caius; but he believes it is really probable that he has paid both
debts. He foresees that, if he offers the money to Sempronius, he will
be subjected to serious quarrels and vexations, or at least that very
bad use will be made of the money; while, if he offers to pay Caius,
the latter may take some slight offense. He decides that there are
proportionate reasons in each case to justify his following the less
probable opinion.

(b) Fr. Titus thinks that a penitent is more probably bound to ask
pardon of one whom he has offended. But he knows that, if he imposes
the obligation, the present good faith of the penitent will be changed
to bad faith, and he will refuse to do what is imposed. Fr. Titus
decides, therefore, that it will be more profitable for the penitent if
the less probable opinion--that there is no obligation--be followed.

734. The two chief arguments for Compensationism, which are also the
two chief objections it makes against ordinary Probabilism, are:

(a) The obligation of a law depends on the knowledge one has about it.
If one knows that the law exists, there is certain obligation; if one
knows that the law does not exist, there is no obligation; if one holds
it as probable that the law exists, there is probable obligation. Now,
since one may not be excused from obligation unless there is a reason
proportionate to the obligation itself (see 495), he who is under
probable or more probable obligation must have a graver reason for
using freedom than he who is under no obligation (against Probabilism),
but he need not have as grave a reason as one who is under a certain
obligation (against Probabiliorism). Hence, one may not act against a
probable law, unless by so doing there is some good secured that
compensates for the danger to which the right of the law is exposed.

(b) It is lawful to perform a good act from which an evil effect will
result, only if one has a proportionally grave cause for permitting the
evil effect (see 102 sqq.). But he who follows the opinion for liberty
against a more probable or equally probable opinion for law, performs
an act from which will probably result the evil of a material
transgression of law. Therefore, one may not use Probabilism unless by
so doing there is some good secured that compensates for the danger of
material sin to which one exposes oneself.

735. Criticisms from the Probabilists.--(a) The dictum that a doubtful
law obliges doubtfully cannot be applied, for in actual life there is
no middle way between decision for the law and decision for liberty,
unless it be indecision. The principle of Compensationism must mean,
then, that we must always decide for a doubtful law (which is
Tutiorism), or remain in suspense (which is no help to the one in

(b) The supposition that there must always be some special reason of
good to offset the evil of the danger of material sin is not correct.
For there always exists a compensation proportionate to the danger,
namely, the exercise of liberty, a great gift of God, and the avoidance
of the burden of fulfilling all uncertain obligations.

736. Reply of the Compensationists.--(a) The principle that a doubtful
law obliges doubtfully means only that the reasons in favor of the law
deserve some consideration, and should not be put aside unless one has
some better reason than mere arbitrariness, self-will, or the intention
to take always the easier way. There is no question of either Tutiorism
or hesitation, but only of a prudent and honest facing of the fact that
there are two sides to one's doubt.

(b) It is not true that the exercise of liberty and the escape from the
burden of uncertain obligations are always a sufficient compensation
for the danger of material sin. For material sin is not only an evil in
itself, as being a violation of law; it is also the source of many and
great evils both to the individual and society, such as wrong habits
acquired, scandal given, etc. Liberty is a great gift, but it should
not become a cloak for malice. Neither is the foregoing of liberty so
great an evil that one should not be willing to suffer it now and then
in order to prevent the greater evils spoken of just above.

737. Other Objections Against the System of Compensation.

(a) From Authority.--Compensationism is of very recent origin, and it
cannot be admitted that the right solution of moral difficulties was
unknown before this new system appeared.

(b) From Reason.--It runs counter to the principle commonly accepted in
the controversies of the systems, namely, that the decisive factor as
to obligation in doubt is knowledge. For it introduces a new factor,
that of sufficient reason or compensation.

(c) From Serviceability.--It is easy to say in the abstract that one
should always have a suitable reason for adopting a probable opinion in
favor of liberty. But, when one attempts to apply this rule to actual
cases, difficulties innumerable arise (searchings of motives, comparison
of probabilities, measuring of consequences, etc.), so that for use
Compensationism is impossible, or impracticable.

738. Reply of Compensationists.--(a) Compensationism is an example of
doctrinal progression from the implicit to the explicit. The principles
on which it is based are found in the teaching and practice of the most
ancient authorities.

(b) Sufficient reason is not a new principle, since it is admitted by
all moralists for the case of double effect (see above, 102 Sqq.); its
application to the solution of doubts of conscience is not an
innovation, since the cases of doubt and of double effect are analogous.

(c) Compensationism is not intended as a system to be applied by those
who have not sufficient theological training, but as a guide for
moralists, directors and confessors. That it is not difficult, is clear
from the fact that it is only an application of the commonly accepted
principle of double effect, and that Probabilists themselves recommend
it and make very general use of it, as if they instinctively recognized
its necessity.

739. Practical Conclusions.--From the foregoing discussions one may
deduce three rules for the guidance of those who are not expert

(a) If your state of conscience is certitude (i.e., if you are firmly
convinced which way your duty lies), entertain no fears or scrupulous
doubts, and, having done your part to understand your obligations, you
need not hesitate to follow your conscience.

(b) If your state of conscience is imprudent assent (i.e., the
acceptance of what you recognize as unlikely), or if it is suspended
assent (i.e., a wavering between opposites), do not act blindly, but
seek truth and decision.

(c) If your state of conscience is opinion (i.e., the acceptance of
what you regard as likely though uncertain), consult your confessor or
another competent theologian; if there is no time for this, decide for
any course that seems true and prudent (see on perplexed conscience,
611 sqq.).

740. Regarding the respective merits and the use of the rival systems
of conscience, the following conclusions may be drawn:

(a) If there is question of what is to be counselled, one should be a
"Meliorist," for the better and more perfect is more advisable than
what is merely good or lawful. All Christians should be directed to
aspire after holiness, but, if one is unwilling to follow a counsel, it
should not be imposed on him as a precept. Naturally, of those in
higher station higher things are required.

(b) As between doubt and certitude regarding obligations, one must be a
"Certitudinist," that is, one must resolve doubts or slight
probabilities into direct or indirect certitude (as was explained above
in 641 sqq.). If a doubt remains, one must for that case be a
Tutiorist, that is, one must follow the safer side (as explained in

(c) As between the safer and the less safe, one must be a Tutiorist,
when some law requires this, as is the case when validity or supreme
rights are at stake (as explained in 678, 679).

(d) As between the more likely and the less likely, one must be a
Probabiliorist, when this is according to law, as is the case in civil
suits where the preponderance of evidence must be followed (see 697).

(e) One may not follow either Tutiorism (see above, 676) as a general
moral system, nor Laxism (see above, 681).

(f) If a probable opinion for liberty is opposed by no contrary
probable opinion or by none whose arguments cannot be overcome, one is
free to follow that opinion, as explained in 649, 703.

(g) If a probable opinion for liberty is opposed by an opinion that is
less, equally or more probable, one is free to act according to the
principles of Probabiliorism, Equiprobabilism, Probabilism or
Compensationism, according to conviction.

741. As for the use of moral systems by confessors, the two following
rules are generally admitted:

(a) If a penitent has formed his conscience according to one moral
system, the confessor has no right to impose on him the opinion of a
different moral system; for the Church allows liberty.

(b) If a penitent has not formed his conscience according to any moral
system and seeks the answer to a moral doubt, the confessor should
decide, not necessarily for what his own system declares lawful, but
for what appears, all the circumstances being considered, to be most
advantageous spiritually for the penitent. Example: Fr. Titus is a
Probabilist, and he usually advises questioners to follow opinions that
are less probable; while Fr. Caius, who is a Probabiliorist, always
requires that such persons follow the more probable opinions. Both act
unwisely. For persons who are better disposed, it will often be more
profitable to follow what is more probable or favorable to obligation;
for those Whose dispositions are less good, milder opinions may be
recommended, lest the smoking flax of goodness that is in them be
entirely extinguished. Neither is it right to impose as certain an
obligation which the penitent, if he were acquainted with Moral
Theology, would see is controverted.

742. In case of disagreement between confessor and penitent as to
whether absolution may be given, whose opinion should prevail? (a) If
the disagreement is concerned with matters about which the confessor
himself has to judge (e.g., the disposition of the penitent, the
requisite matter for absolution, etc.), the opinion of the confessor
must prevail; for the act of judging is his own, and he must be guided
therefore by his own conviction.

(b) If the disagreement is concerned with matters about which the
confessor is not the judge (such as the controversies of schools and
theologians), the confessor may not refuse absolution to a
well-disposed penitent, just because the latter will not accept the
opinion of his school or system. If it be manifest that the penitent's
opinion is false or improbable, absolution may be denied him, unless it
seems more prudent to leave him in good faith.



743. In the First Part of this work, the means to man's Last End were
spoken of in a general way; the features that are common to all good
acts--that they be human, morally deserving, directed according to law
and conscience--were treated. In the present Part the means to the Last
End will be discussed in particular, and we shall consider in turn the
kinds of duties that are owed by all men and those owed by persons in
special states of life.

Question I


744. Good habits, specifically different, are all reducible to seven
most general virtues (see 150, 151), and hence in studying these seven
virtues, we shall at the same time study all the common duties of man.

745. The properties of the seven infused virtues are chiefly four:

(a) In the first place, these virtues may be increased: "This I pray,
that your charity may more and more abound" (Phil, i. 9). The increase
takes place _ex opere operato_ through the Sacraments, or _ex opere
operantis_ through meritorious works--that is, whenever sanctifying
grace, their root, is increased.

(b) A second property of the infused virtues is that they may be lost:
"I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first
charity" (Apoc., ii. 4); "Some have made shipwreck concerning the
faith" (I Tim., i. 19). The loss is caused by the contrary of the
virtue: faith is lost by disbelief, hope by despair; charity and the
moral virtues are lost by any mortal sin, for they are built on
sanctifying grace, which mortal sin destroys.

(c) A third property of the infused virtues is that they cannot be
diminished directly. If we leave out of consideration their opposites
(which, as just said, remove these virtues entirely), there is nothing
else that can act directly upon them. Mere failure to exercise them
cannot lessen them, since they are caused by divine infusion, not by
human exercise; venial sin cannot lessen them, since it does not lessen
grace on which they depend.

(d) A fourth property of the infused virtues is that they are
diminished indirectly. Failure to practise them or venial sin does
diminish the ease and fervor with which the acts of these virtues are
exercised; and thus indirectly--that is, by preparing the way for acts
that are directly contrary--neglect or venial sin diminishes the habits


(_Summa Theologica_, II-II, qq. 1-9.)

746. The order of the theological virtues here followed is that given
by St. Paul in I Cor., xiii. 13--viz., faith, hope, charity. The order
of these virtues is twofold: (a) according to dignity the order is
charity, hope, faith; (b) according to time, the order is that of I
Cor., xiii. The habits of these three virtues are infused at the same
time (i.e., at the moment when grace is conferred), but their acts are
not simultaneous, and one must believe before one can hope or love.

747. Excellence of the Virtue of Faith.--(a) Faith is the beginning of
the supernatural life, the foundation and the root of justification,
without which it is impossible to please God and arrive at fellowship
with Him. (b) It is an anticipation of the end of the supernatural
life, for by faith we believe that which we shall behold in the
beatific vision: "All these died according to faith, not having
received the promises, but beholding them afar off, and saluting them
and confessing that they are pilgrims and strangers on the earth"
(Heb., xi. 13).

748. Utility of Faith for the Individual.--(a) Through faith the
intellect receives a new light, which discloses to it a higher
world--"the wisdom of God in a mystery" (I Cor., ii. 7)--and which
illuminates even this lower world with a heavenly brightness, that man
may know more quickly, more surely, and more perfectly the natural
truths that pertain to God and duty. (b) The will is strengthened to
perform duties valiantly through the motives and examples which faith
offers: the patriarchs of old "by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought
justice, obtained promises, recovered strength from weakness" (Heb.,
xi. 33). In adversity faith is a stay and a consolation: "For what
things soever were written, were written for our learning, that through
patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope" (Rom.,
xv. 4).

749. Utility of Faith for Society.--(a) Domestic society is defended in
its security and happiness by faith, which teaches the sacramental
character of marriage, which offers the model of the Holy Family to
Christian homes, which never ceases to declare in the name of God the
duties of husbands and wives, parents and children. (b) Without faith
and religion civil society cannot be maintained in strength and
prosperity. It is faith in God more than laws or armies that gives
security to life, reputation, and property, with order and peace at
home and abroad.

750. The Meaning of Faith.--In Holy Scripture and other religious
writings the word _faith_ has various meanings.

(a) Sometimes it stands for a promise, or for the quality of being true
to one's promises. Examples: St. Paul condemns widows who remarry
against their word, "because they have made void their first faith
(promise)" (I Tim., v. 12). Speaking of the unbelief of the Jews, he
says: "Shall their unbelief make the faith (i.e., fidelity to promise
or faithfulness) of God without effect? God forbid. But God is true"
(Rom, iii. 3, 4).

(b) Sometimes the term _faith_ stands for good reputation, or for
confidence in another. Examples: "He that discloseth the secret of a
friend loseth his faith (credit, reputation), and shall never find a
friend to his mind" (Ecclus., xxvii. 17); "O thou of little faith
(trust, confidence), why didst thou doubt?" (Matt., xiv. 31).

(c) Sometimes _faith_ stands for truths or doctrines offered for one's
belief, or for the assent of the mind to the judgment of conscience or
to the revelation of God. Examples: "Thou has not denied My faith"
(that is, "the truths revealed by Me," Apoc. ii. 13); "All that is not
of faith (i.e., from the firm conviction of conscience) is sin" (Rom,
xiv. 23); "Without faith (i.e., assent to the unseen on the word of
God) it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must
believe" (Heb., xi. 6).

751. It is faith only in the last sense that is known as the
theological virtue of faith, and hence with it alone we are here
concerned. St. Paul describes this faith as follows: "Faith is the
substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear
not" (Heb., xi. 1). This verse is variously interpreted. (a) According
to St. Chrysostom, the meaning is: Faith is the subsistence or
anticipated existence in the soul of future blessings that are hoped
for, through the firm confidence it gives; it is the conviction of the
reality of the unseen. (b) According to St. Thomas, the meaning is:
Faith is the substance or basis on which is built the hope of
blessedness, or on which rests as on its foundation the whole work of
justification; it is an argument producing certainty of that which is
not seen. The elements of St. Thomas' interpretation have been
incorporated into the Vatican Council's definition: "The Catholic
Church professes that this faith which is the beginning of human
salvation is a supernatural virtue by which we, with the aid and
inspiration of the grace of God, believe that the things revealed by
Him are true, not because the intrinsic truth of these things has been
perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority
of God Himself revealing, who can neither deceive nor be deceived"
(Sess. 3, chap. 3, Denz. 1789).

752. Thus, faith is an intellectual habit and act, but it differs from
all other intellectual habits and acts as follows: (a) it differs from
science, vision, understanding, for its object is "the things that
appear not"; (b) it differs from opinion, doubt, suspicion, for it is a
firm "substance," a certain "evidence"; (c) it differs from human faith
or belief resting on man's word and promises, for it is the pledge,
beginning and cornerstone of the happiness promised by God Himself.

753. Faith will now be considered according to two aspects: (a)
objectively, as regards the things that are believed by him who has
faith; (b) subjectively, as regards the habit and act of the believer
which put him in contact with these truths of the unseen world.

754. The Object of Faith.--There is a twofold object of faith, viz.,
material and formal.

(a) The material object, or the truth that is believed, includes all
that is contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down by
tradition. The principal material object is God Himself as the Deity,
or Supreme Truth in Being (_prima veritas in essendo_); the secondary
material object embraces all other revealed truths.

(b) The formal object of faith, or the motive that prompts one to give
assent to the material object, is the authority of God, who is Supreme
Truth in Knowing and Speaking (_prima veritas in cognoscendo et
dicendo_), and hence He can neither be deceived nor deceive.

755. The material object of faith includes all truths revealed by God;
but, since it belongs to the Church to teach those truths, there is a
distinction of truths that are revealed by God but not defined by the
Church, and truths that are revealed by God and defined by the Church
as revealed. Thus: (a) divine faith is belief in revealed truth that
has not been declared by the Church as revealed; (b) divine and
Catholic faith is belief in a revealed truth that has been proposed as
such by the Church, either solemnly or ordinarily. Example: Dogmas
contained in creeds, definitions of Popes or general councils. The
Vatican Council has determined the object of this faith: By divine and
Catholic faith all those things must be believed which are contained in
the written word of God and in tradition, and which are proposed by the
Church, either by a solemn pronouncement or by her ordinary and
universal magisterium, to be believed as divinely revealed (Ibid., Denz.

756. The formal object of faith extends to all truths that have been
revealed and to no others. Theologians discuss the status of certain
truths connected with revelation concerning which the Church is
guaranteed infallibility on account of her teaching office. Special
difficulties arise in relation to: a) dogmatic facts, that is,
definitions concerning particular facts closely related to dogma (e.g.,
that Anglican orders are invalid; that a particular book contains a
sense contrary to revelation; that this Supreme Pontiff, legitimately
elected, is the successor of St. Peter in the primacy and consequently
infallible); b) theological conclusions, that is, deductions drawn from
revealed truth.

Many theologians teach that both dogmatic facts and theological
conclusions when defined by the Church constitute a special object of
faith distinct from divine and Catholic faith, namely, ecclesiastical
faith. Accordingly, for them, ecclesiastical faith is the internal
assent given to truths connected with revelation and defined by the
Church as true, the motive of assent being the infallibility of the
Church in her teaching office.

Others deny the existence of such faith and insist a) that dogmatic
facts are contained in revealed doctrine implicitly as singulars in
universals and hence are believed before definition by divine faith
implicitly, and after definition by divine and Catholic faith, b) that
theological conclusions before definition are held by theological
assent, afterwards by divine and Catholic faith. Some also have
maintained that before definition such conclusions belong to divine
faith. (For a summary of the various teachings on this problem see
Reginaldo-Maria Schultes, O.P., _Introductio in Historiam Dogmatum_,
pp. 46 ff.; Marin-Sola, O.P., _L'Evolution homogene du Dogme

757. Private revelations, even when approved by the Church, are not an
object of divine and Catholic faith, for they form no part of the
revelation given to the whole human race that was closed with the death
of the Apostles and committed to the Church. Hence: (a) if they are
negatively approved by the Church, the approval means only that such
revelations contain nothing contrary to faith and morals, and are
useful and edifying; (b) if they are approved positively (as is the
case with the revelations of St. Hildegarde, St. Brigit, and St.
Catherine of Siena), the approval means that they appear to be true
divine revelations and may be prudently accepted as such.

758. The assent to be given to private revelations, therefore, is as

(a) Such revelations should receive the assent of divine faith, if it
is certain that they are genuine. This applies to those to whom and for
whom they were given, and probably to others also. It rarely happens,
however, that the genuineness of a private revelation can be critically
established, and the Church does not require that such revelations be
accepted by all the faithful. To refuse assent, therefore, to a private
revelation is not generally an offense against divine faith.

(b) Private revelations cannot receive the assent of Catholic faith,
since, even when approved by the Church, they are not proposed as a
part of the Christian revelation committed to her care. To dissent from
them, therefore, is not a sin against Catholic faith, unless in
rejecting them one would also reject defined dogma (e.g., by denying
the possibility of revelation).

(c) Private revelations are not offered for the assent of
ecclesiastical faith, since in approving them the Church does not
propose them as necessarily connected with the exercise of her teaching
office or under guarantee of infallibility. To dissent from them,
therefore, is not a sin against ecclesiastical faith, unless other
errors (e.g., against the authority of the Church in matters connected
with revelation) are also involved.

(d) Private revelations are offered for the assent of human faith,
since the Church proposes them to the faithful, if approved, as matters
of pious opinion, which are according to the rules of prudence truly
probable on account of traditions in their favor, supported by suitable
testimony and documents (Benedict XIV, _De Canonizatione Sanctorum_,
lib. II, cap. 23; III, cap. ult.; Sacred Cong. Rites, May 12, 1877, n.
3419, ad 2). The Church permits, but does not exact belief in these
revelations. One would not be excused, however, who rejected them
through pride or contempt, or without sufficient reason.

759. Similarly, although the Church offers for human faith alone
certain particular facts of history, one who rejects them may easily be
guilty of contempt or temerity. Such particular facts are: (a)
apparitions of heavenly beings in post-Biblical times, such as the
appearance of the Archangel Michael in Monte Gargano about 525 and the
appearance of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes in 1858, for which the
Church has instituted feasts; (b) deeds related in the legends of the
Saints, such as the victory of St. Catherine of Alexandria over the
pagan philosophers and the carrying of her body to Mt. Sinai by Angels,
which the Church inserts in the Breviary lessons; (c) the authenticity
of relics. In granting certificates of genuineness, the Church
guarantees only that there is sufficient historical evidence or
probability for the belief that particular bones or other objects
belonged to a particular Saint.

760. Many tenets of the Church, indeed, have not the prerogative of
infallibility--for example, decrees of the Popes not given _ex
cathedra_, decisions of Congregations made with Papal approval,
teachings of Bishops to particular members of the Church, doctrines
commonly held by Catholics as theological truths or certain
conclusions. These decrees, decisions, etc., receive not the assent of
Catholic faith, but what is called religious assent, which includes two
things, viz., external and internal assent.

(a) External assent should be given such teachings--that is, the homage
of respectful silence due to public authority. This does not forbid the
submission of difficulties to the teaching authority, or the scientific
examination of objections that seem very strong.

(b) Internal assent should be given such teaching--that is, the
submission of the judgment of the individual to the judgment of the
teacher who has the authority from Christ and assistance from the Holy
Spirit. This internal assent differs, however, from the assent of
faith, inasmuch as it excludes fear of error, but not of the
possibility of error, and it may later on be suspended, called into
doubt, or even revoked. Pope Pius X in his _Motu proprio_, "Praestantia
scripturae Sacrae" (Nov. 18, 1907), indicated the binding force of the
decrees both of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of all doctrinal
decrees: All are bound in conscience to submit to the decisions of the
Biblical Commission which have been given in the past and which shall
be given in the future, in the same way as to the decrees which
appertain to doctrine, issued by the Sacred Congregations and approved
by the Supreme Pontiff; nor can they escape the stigma both of
disobedience and temerity, nor be free from grave guilt as often as
they impugn their decisions either in word or writing; and this over
and above the scandal which they give and the sins of which they may be
the cause before God by making other statements on these matters which
are very frequently both rash and false. (Reaffirmed by the Biblical
Commission on Feb. 27, 1934.)

761. The objects, therefore, which formally or reductively pertain to
the virtue of faith, are as follows:

(a) Divine faith has for its object all the truths revealed by God as
contained in the Canonical scriptures approved by the Church, and in
the teachings received by the Apostles from Christ or the Holy Spirit
and handed down to the Church as Tradition. Private revelations in
exceptional cases may also be the object of divine faith.

(b) Catholic faith has for its object all the truths formally revealed
in scripture and Tradition that have been defined as such by the
Church. The definitions of the Church are either solemn (e.g., those
given in the Creeds, _ex cathedra_ definitions of the Popes, decisions
of Ecumenical Councils) or ordinary (e.g., those contained in the
universal preaching, practice or belief of the Church, encyclical
letters [see _Humani Generis_, n.20]). Equivalent to definitions are
the condemnations of error opposed to revealed truths.

(c) According to some theologians ecclesiastical faith has for its
object all infallible decisions of the Church about matters not
revealed, but connected with revelation, or necessary for the exercise
of the teaching office of the Church. Such are: (i) definitions, that
is, definitive declarations of theological conclusions or of dogmatic
facts, disciplinary laws made for the entire Church, canonization of
the saints, solemn approbation of religious Orders, express or special
recognition of Doctors of the Church, declaration of the relation of
private revelations to the public revelation; and (ii) censures, that
is, condemnations of teachings, on account of falsity, as heretical,
near to heresy, savoring of heresy, erroneous, rash, etc.; on account
of their expression, as equivocal, ambiguous, presumptuous, captious,
suspected, ill-sounding, offensive to pious ears, etc.; on account of
their tendency, as scandalous, schismatical, seditious, unsafe, etc.
Examples: The definitions concerning the sense of the book
_Augustinus_, the suitability of the terms "consubstantial" and
"transubstantiation," the agreement of the Vulgate with the original
scriptures, the lawfulness of the insertion of the _Filioque_.

(d) Religious assent has for its object all doctrinal pronouncements of
the Church that are not infallible, but are yet official and
authoritative. Examples are ordinary instructions and condemnations
given by Pontifical Congregations and Commissions. The Syllabus of
Modern Errors issued by Pius IX was most likely not an infallible or
definitive document, although many of the errors it rejects are
contrary to dogma, and hence, even apart from the Syllabus, they are to
be rejected as opposed to Catholic faith. Likewise, many of its tenets
are drawn from encyclical letters. Papal allocutions, radio addresses,
and the doctrinal parts of Apostolic Constitutions, in themselves, are
in this class.

(e) Respect is due to the judgment of the Church even in non-doctrinal
matters and where no obligation is imposed by her, on account of her
position and the careful examination given before decision. Example: It
would be disrespectful to reject without good reason a pious belief
which the Church after mature deliberation has permitted to be held.

762. Though the truths of faiths are many, the duty of believing
imposes no great burden on the believer. Thus: (a) it is not required
that explicit belief be given to all the teachings of faith; (b) it is
not required that one distinguish the particular kind of assent in case
of uncertainty, but it suffices to yield assent according to the mind
and intention of the Church. Example: When a group of propositions is
condemned under various censures, no indication being made of the
censure that applies to particular propositions, it suffices to hold
that all of them are false, and that to each of them applies one or
more of the censures listed.

763. Faith is divided into explicit and implicit, according as the
object believed is unfolded or not to the mind.

(a) Faith is explicit regarding any truth, when assent is given to that
truth as known in itself and expressed in terms proper to itself.
Example: He has explicit faith in the Eucharist who has been instructed
concerning the meaning of the mystery, and who assents to it according
to that distinct knowledge.

(b) Faith is implicit regarding any truth, when that truth is not known
or not accepted in itself, but is accepted in another truth. Example:
He has implicit faith in the Eucharist who has not yet heard of it, but
who accepts all the teachings of the Church, even those he does not

764. Faith is implicit as follows:

(a) Improperly, faith is implicit, if one does not give assent, but is
prepared to give it, if necessary, or wishes to give it. These pious
dispositions are not the act of faith itself, but they are its
beginnings, or preparations leading up to it; they are good, but not
sufficient. Example: A pagan who says he would accept the Christian
creed, if he thought it were true, or who wishes that he could believe

(b) Properly, faith is implicit, if one gives assent to a truth by
accepting another in which it is contained, as a particular is
contained in a universal (e.g., he who explicitly accepts all the
truths of Christianity, implicitly accepts the Eucharist, even when in
good faith he thinks it is not revealed), or as an instrument is
involved in its principal cause (e.g., he who explicitly believes in
the Redemption implicity believes in Baptism, which is the instrument
by which Redemption is applied), or as means are contained in their end
(e.g., he who explicitly believes that eternal life is a reward,
implicitly believes that good works must be performed as a means to
that end), or as the reality is expressed in the figure (e.g., those in
the Old Testament who explicitly believed in the Paschal Lamb,
implicitly believed in the sacrifice of Christ of which the Paschal
Lamb was the figure), or as the assent of the disciple is bound up with
the assent of the teacher (e.g., the child who explicitly accepts as
true the doctrines of faith taught by his pastor, implicitly believes
the sense and implications contained in the latter's instructions).

765. The points about which explicit faith is required can be reduced
to four heads (see Catechism of the Council of Trent). These heads are:

(a) The things to be believed: "Preach the Gospel to every creature. He
that believeth shall be saved" (Mark, xvi. 15). The Gospel doctrine is
summarized in the Apostles' Creed;

(b) The things to be done: "Teach them to observe all things whatsoever
I have commanded you" (Matt., xxviii. 20). The Ten Commandments (see
Vol. II) are called the epitome of the whole law;

(c) The ordinances to be observed; "Baptize them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt, xxviii. 19). The
Seven Sacraments are the sacred instruments through which the merits of
the Passion of Christ are applied to the soul;

(d) The petitions to be made to God: "Thus shall you pray: Our Father,
etc." (Matt., vi. 9). The prayer (see Vol. II) given us by Christ
teaches us both the manner of prayer and the requests that should be

766. Faith in the revelation given by God is necessary for salvation
(Heb., xi. 6), but in the usual providence of God faith cannot be had or
safeguarded without short formulas of its principal doctrines.

(a) Faith cannot be received without such formulas, because, its
doctrines being many and frequently difficult and the study of all
scripture and Tradition being impossible for most persons, a list of
short and clear propositions of revealed truths (Creed) is needed that
the faith may be proposed and accepted.

(b) Faith cannot be retained without such formulas, because, being
unchanging in itself and yet for all times and places, its doctrines
would be easily corrupted if there were not an official standard
(Symbol) by which both truth and error could be at once recognized (I
Cor., i. 10; II Tim., i. 13).

767. The formulas of Christian teaching as summarized in the Creeds,
since they must be brief and orderly, are divided into short and
connected propositions, which are therefore known as articles. Brevity
being the character of Creeds, not all revealed truths are expressed in
them as articles, but only those that have the following

(a) An article of the Creed deals with one of the two main objects of
belief, namely, the end of man, which is eternal life (Heb., xi. 1), and
the means thereto, which is Jesus Christ (John, xvii. 3). Other things,
which are proposed for faith, not for their own sake, but only on
account of their relation to these two main objects (e.g., the
wandering of the Israelites in the desert, the details of the journeys
of St. Paul, etc.), are not mentioned in the Creeds.

(b) An article of the Creed deals only with those doctrines concerning
eternal life and Christ which are in a special manner unseen or
difficult, for faith is "the evidence of things that appear not" (Heb.,
xi. 1). Other doctrines which have no special difficulty of their own
are considered as implicit in those that express the general mysteries,
and hence they are not mentioned. Thus, the three Persons of the
Trinity are given distinct articles, because the mysteriousness of the
Triune God cannot be reduced to any more general mystery, whereas the
Eucharist is not mentioned, as having no mystery that is not implied in
the articles on the divine omnipotence and the sanctification of man
through Christ.

768. Has there been an increase in the articles of faith?

(a) If by increase is meant the addition through new revelation of main
beliefs not contained in the primitive revelation, there has never been
an increase in the articles of faith; for from the beginning God made
known His own being, which includes the eternal things of God and the
end or happiness of man, and His providence, which includes the
temporal dispensations of God and the means for the salvation of man
(Heb., xi. 6).

(b) If by increase is meant the addition of new revelations that
brought out more clearly and definitely things contained in previous
revelation, there was an increase in the articles of faith from the
beginning of revelations down to the end of the Apostolic age. Thus,
the nature of God and His purpose as regards the redemption of humanity
were brought out ever more distinctly by new revelations in Old
Testament times (Exod., vi. 2), and were given in final and complete
form by the revelation of Christ (Heb., i. 1; Eph., iii. 5; Heb., xii.
27, 28; II Tim., i. 13).

(c) If by increase is meant a clearer and fuller explanation of the
revelation once delivered to the Saints, there has been and always can
be an increase of articles of faith. Thus, in the Council of Nicaea the
Apostles' Creed was amplified; in the Council of Constantinople the
Creed of Nicaea was added to, and similarly today or tomorrow the Pope
could add new explanations or developments to the Creed, if new
heresies or necessities required that the true sense of revelation
already given should be brought out more clearly or fully.

769. There are three principal Creeds used by the Church:

(a) the Apostles' Creed, which according to an early tradition was
composed by the Apostles themselves before they separated to preach the
Gospel. It was in use from the first centuries in the Roman Church,
which required that the catechumens learn and recite it before
receiving Baptism. It is divided into twelve articles;

(b) the Nicene Creed, which is used in the Mass and was drawn up at the
Council of Nicaea (325) against the Arian denial of the divinity of
Christ, and was revised by the Council of Constantinople (381) against
the Macedonians, who refused to acknowledge the divinity of the Holy

(c) the Athanasian Creed, which is used in the Office of Prime and is a
resume of the teaching of St. Athanasius on the Trinity and
Incarnation. It was composed in the West some time after the beginning
of the fifth century.

770. Summary of the teaching of the First Article of the Creed: "I
believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth."--(a)
"I believe," i.e., I give unhesitating assent to God revealing His
mysterious truths; (b) "in God," i.e., the Supreme Being, one in nature
and three in persons; (c) "the Father," i.e., our Maker and Provider,
from whom also we receive the spirit of adoption of sons; (d)
"almighty," i.e., all-powerful, and therefore all-wise and endowed with
every other perfection in the highest degree; (e) "Creator," i.e., who
freely produced the world out of nothing, without external model or
effort of any sort, and who preserves, rules and moves all creatures;
(f) "of heaven and earth," i.e., of the world of pure spirits, of
matter, and of man, who is at the confines of matter and spirit--in
other words, of all finite things, visible and invisible.

771. Summary of the Second Article: "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son,
our Lord."--(a) "Jesus," a name given by command of God and meaning
"Saviour"; (b) "Christ," i.e., "the anointed," because He was King,
Priest, and Prophet; (c) "His only Son," i.e., born of the Father before
all ages, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten
not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made;
(d) "our Lord," for as God He shares all the perfections of the divine
nature, as man He has redeemed us and thus deservedly acquired the
title of Lord over us, while as the God-man He is the Lord of all
created things. It should be noted that there is nothing imperfect or
carnal in the generation of the Son, or in the procession of the Holy
Ghost, for God is a spirit and all-perfect.

772. Summary of the Third Article: "Who was conceived by the Holy
Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."--(a) "Who was conceived." The
Only-begotten Son, the second Person of the Trinity, for us men and for
our salvation, became incarnate and was made man. Thus, the same Divine
Person is in both the divine and human natures, and the union preserves
the properties and the actions of both natures. (b) "By the Holy
Ghost." At the moment when Mary consented to the announcement of the
angel, the body of Christ was formed in her womb from her flesh, the
rational soul was infused, and the divine and human natures were united
in the Person of the Word. Thus, Mary is truly the Mother of God. This
conception was miraculous, accomplished without the aid of man, through
the sole operation of the three Persons of the Trinity. Being an
external work of God in which love towards us is especially manifested,
the Incarnation is attributed to the Holy Ghost, who in the internal
life of the Deity proceeds as the mutual love of Father and Son. (c)
"Born of the Virgin Mary." Mary was ever a virgin, before, during, and
after childbirth; immaculate and holy in soul; the spiritual Mother of
whom Christians are born in holiness.

773. Summary of the Fourth Article: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, dead and buried."--(a) The effect of that which is contained
in this article is expressed in the words of the Nicene Creed, "for
us." The passion and death of Christ, willed by Himself, accomplished
our salvation, as satisfaction, sacrifice and redemption; (b) The
manner in which this was brought about is declared in the words above
quoted. In His human nature Christ suffered agony and pain of body; He
was sentenced to death by the Roman governor and nailed to the cross.
His soul and body were separated in death, although the Divinity never
departed from either, and His dead body was laid in the tomb.

774. Summary of the Fifth Article: "He descended into hell; the third
day He rose again from the dead."--(a) "He descended." After His death
the soul of Christ went to the abode of the departed, to liberate those
who were there. (b) "Into hell." The name hell is applied in a wide
sense to all those secret abodes in which are detained the souls of
those who have not obtained the happiness of heaven--viz., the hell of
the damned, in which the impenitent suffer eternal pain of loss and
sense; purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by
temporary punishments; limbo, where the fathers of the Old Testament
awaited in peaceful repose the coming of Christ. It was this last abode
into which the soul of Christ entered. (c) "The third day"--i.e., on
Sunday morning, the third day after His burial. (d) "He rose again." As
He had laid down His life by His own power, so He took it up again by
His own power. (e) "From the dead." Christ not only returned to life,
He also conquered death; He rose to die no more, and thus He is first
in the final resurrection. (f) "According to the scriptures." These
words are added in the Creed of Constantinople, to call attention to
the fact that the resurrection is the attestation of the truth of our
Lord's claims and doctrine (I Cor., xv. 14, 17; Matt., xii. 39, 40).

775. Summary of the Sixth Article: "He ascended into heaven, sitteth at
the right hand of God, the Father almighty."--(a) "He ascended." By His
own power as God and man Christ ascended into heaven. (b) "Into
heaven." As God, He never forsook heaven, the Divinity being
omnipresent; but as man, body and soul, He ascended to the abode of
glory forty days after the resurrection. (c) "Sitteth at the right hand
of God the Father Almighty." Christ is said to stand at the right hand
of God, inasmuch as He is our Mediator with the Father (Acts, vii. 55;
Heb., vii. 25; John, xiv. 2); He is said to sit at the right hand of
the Father to express the permanent possession of royal and supreme
power and glory (Eph., i. 20-22; Heb., i. 13).

776. Summary of the Seventh Article: "From thence He shall come to
judge the living and the dead."--There is a particular judgment at
death; at the end of the World, of which the time is uncertain, there
will be a general judgment, both of the living and the dead. Christ
will come a second time, and as Judge will pass sentence either of
eternal loss and pain or of eternal happiness.

777. Summary of the Eighth Article: "I believe in the Holy Ghost."--The
Third Person of the Trinity is equal to the Father and the Son,
proceeds from them both as their mutual love, and is spoken of,
therefore, by appropriation, as the Author of works of grace and
sanctification, in which especially the charity of God is manifested:
"The Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the
Father and the Son, who together with the Father and the Son is adored
and glorified, who spoke by the prophets" (Creed of Constantinople).

778. Summary of the Ninth Article: "I believe the Holy Catholic Church;
the Communion of Saints."--(a) The Church pertains to the material, not
the formal object of divine faith (see 754), and hence it is not said:
"I believe in the Church." We believe of the Church that she is the
visible society made up of the faithful scattered throughout the world,
called also the house of God (I Tim., iii. 15), the flock of Christ,
the spouse of Christ (II Cor., xi. 2), the body of Christ (Eph., i. 23;
Col., i. 24); that besides the Church militant on earth, composed of
both the good and the bad, and outside of which are unbelievers and the
excommunicated, there is the Church triumphant in heaven and the Church
suffering in purgatory; that there are four marks by which the true
Church may be recognized--viz., that she is one, holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic; that she is divine in her origin and possesses divinely
given powers. (b) "The Communion of Saints." The members of the Church
have different offices, but there is among them a community of
spiritual goods, the Sacraments being a bond of union, and each one
profiting according to his condition in the good works done by others,
The Church suffering is assisted by our suffrages, while we in turn are
helped by the intercessions of the Church triumphant.

779. Summary of the Tenth Article: "The forgiveness of sins."--God
forgives all sins, when they are truly repented of, either through
Baptism (in case of sins before Baptism) or through the due exercise of
the power of the keys given the Church (in case of sins after Baptism).
Venial sins may be forgiven by private repentance.

780. Summary of the Eleventh Article: "The resurrection of the
body."--The soul is immortal, the body mortal. But at the end of the
world the bodies of all the dead, even though corrupted, shall be
restored and reunited with their principle of life--i.e., the soul to
which they belonged. Substantially, the risen body will be identical
with the mortal body, but it will have certain new qualities
corresponding to its new state.

781. Summary of the Twelfth Article: "Life everlasting."--Those who die
in the friendship of God will be received into unending happiness, in
which they will be exempted from all evil and enjoy the beatific vision
and other divine gifts.

782. The Acts of Faith.--According to St. Paul, there are two acts of
faith, one internal, the other external: "With the heart we believe
unto justice, but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation"
(Rom., x. 10). (a) The internal act of faith is the firm and constant
judgment of the intellect assenting to divine revelation (II Cor., x.
5), but freely and under the command of the will (Mark, xvi. 16), being
moved thereto by divine grace (Eph., ii. 5). (b) The external act of
faith is the profession before the world by signs, such as words or
deeds, of the internal assent given to divine revelation.

783. The internal act of faith is one, but it has a threefold
relationship: (a) it believes about God, if we consider the intellect
as assenting to the material object; (b) it believes God, if we
consider the intellect as assenting to the formal object; (c) it
believes in God, if we consider the will as moving the intellect to
assent, and tending towards God as the Last End.

784. The truths to which the assent of faith is given are either
supernatural or natural. (a) Supernatural truths or mysteries (e.g.,
the Trinity of Persons in God) are revealed for faith, that man may
know, desire and work for the supernatural destiny to which he has been
raised. (b) Natural truths (e.g., the Oneness of God) are revealed for
faith, so that mankind may obtain more quickly, more generally, and
more certainly the knowledge of divine things which reason can afford.
It is impossible, however, that an act of faith and an act of knowledge
should coexist in the same individual about the same truth, for faith
is of things that appear not.

785. The act of faith is a necessary preliminary to other supernatural
acts, for we do not tend towards the supernatural, unless we first
accept it by belief; hence, faith is necessary. But the act of faith
may also be made after other supernatural acts, like those of hope and
charity; and so it may be meritorious. (a) The act of faith is
necessary, both as a means and as a precept (see 360). The necessity of
means will be treated now, the necessity of precept later, when we
speak of the commandments of faith (see 913 sqq.). (b) The act of faith
before justification is meritorious congruously and in a wide sense;
but after justification it has condign merit (see 110).

786. For all adults the act of faith is necessary for salvation as a
necessity of means (see 360), for the Apostle says: "Without faith it
is impossible to please God" (Heb., xi. 6). The truths which must be
believed under necessity of means are of two kinds. (a) One must
believe with implicit faith all revealed truths which one does not know
and is not bound to know. An act of implicit faith is contained in the
formula: "O my God, I firmly believe all the truths the Catholic Church
teaches, because Thou hast revealed them." (b) One must believe with
explicit faith all the truths which one is bound to know. An act of
explicit faith in all the truths necessary by necessity of means is
contained in the Apostles' Creed. Other truths that must be explicitly
believed on account of a necessity of precept will be discussed in 918,

787. What specifically are the truths just referred to that all are
bound to know as a necessary means? (a) Theologians generally agree
that it has always been necessary for adults to know and accept two
basic mysteries--God's existence, as the supernatural End or happiness
of man, and His providence as exercised in supplying the means
necessary for supernatural salvation (see 768). Without such belief,
supernatural hope and charity, at all times necessary, are impossible.
(b) A majority of theologians hold, and with greater probability it
seems, that since the promulgation of the Gospel it is necessary for
adults to know and accept the two basic mysteries of Chrisitanity--
viz., that in God, who is our beatitude, there are three persons (the
Trinity), and that the way to our beatitude is through Christ our
Redeemer (the Incarnation).

788. Even before the Gospel, it was always necessary as a means that
one believe explicitly in God as our supernatural happiness and as the
provider of the means thereto. Thus, the Apostle, speaking of the
ancient patriarchs, says: "He that cometh to God, must believe that He
is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him" (Heb., xi. 6). He that
would come to God (i.e., be saved), must believe in God as the Author
of glory and of grace. Hence, one must believe: (a) that God exists,
who is not ashamed to be called our God, and who prepares for us a
better, that is, a heavenly country (Heb., xi. 6); (b) that God is a
remunerator, from whom must be expected the working out of His promises
and the helps to attain the reward, as well as the meting out of
justice. In this faith is included implicitly a faith in Christ, and
thus in the Old Testament a belief, at least implicit, in the Messiah
to come was always necessary: "Man is not justified by the works of the
law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ" (Gal., ii. 16).

789. Since the promulgation of the Gospel (see 342, 354), it is also
necessary as a means that one believe explicitly in the mysteries of
the Trinity and Incarnation. For he who does not accept these, does not
accept the Gospel, whereas Christ says: "Go ye into the whole world,
and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth not shall be
condemned" (Mark, xvi. 15, 16).

(a) Theoretically, this opinion seems more probable than the opposite
opinion; but chiefly on account of the difficulty about negative
infidels, which is discussed in dogmatic treatises on Predestination
and Grace, many theologians either reject it (e.g., those who say that
belief in the two great Christian mysteries is necessary only as a
precept, or that implicit faith suffices), or modify it (e.g., those
who say that belief in these two mysteries is not necessary as a means
for justification, but only for glorification, and those who say that
regularly such faith is a necessary means, but that an exception is
allowed for invincible ignorance, or for the insufficient promulgation
of the Gospel in many regions).

(b) Practically, this opinion is safer, and hence all theologians, even
Probabilists, hold that one must act as if it were true and certain,
whenever it is possible to give instruction on the Trinity and

790. Knowledge about the mysteries of faith is either substantial (by
which one knows the essentials of a mystery) or scientific (by which
one knows also its circumstances and details, and is able to give a
more profound explanation of it). Scientific knowledge is required, on
account of their office, in those who are bound to teach the faith, but
substantial knowledge suffices for salvation. Hence, for an adult to be
saved, it suffices that he have the following kind of knowledge about
the four great mysteries:

(a) There is a God who has spoken to us, promising freely that He will
take us to Himself as our reward. It is not necessary that one
understand such theological concepts as the essence of deity, the
definition of supernaturality, the formal and material objects of
beatitude, etc.; for many persons are incapable of understanding them.

(b) This God, who will be our reward, is one, but there are three
divine Persons--the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, really distinct
and equal. It is not necessary that one understand the distinction
between nature and person, nor subtle questions about the processions
and properties.

(c) God provides for us, giving us the helps we need, and also, if we
serve Him, the reward He has promised. It is not necessary that one
understand the theology of providence, grace, and merit.

(d) Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, became man, suffered and died for
us, thus saving us from sin and winning back for us the right to
heaven. It is not necessary that one understand scientifically that in
Christ there are two natures united hypostatically in the one Person of
the Word.

791. Since Baptism is fruitless without due faith in the recipient, it
is not lawful as a rule to baptize those who lack substantial knowledge
of the four mysteries just mentioned. (a) Outside of danger of death,
it is never lawful to baptize a person, adult in mind, who is in
substantial ignorance of any of these four mysteries. Such a person
must first receive instruction. (b) In danger of death, when
instruction cannot be given, an adult in substantial ignorance about
the Trinity and the Incarnation may be baptized conditionally; for it
is probable that explicit knowledge of those two mysteries is not a
necessity of means (see 789; Canon 752, Sec.2).

792. Since absolution is invalid if the person absolved is incapable of
receiving grace, and since acts of faith in the four chief mysteries
are an essential means to justification in adults, absolution given to
one who is in substantial ignorance about one of the four mysteries
above mentioned is certainly or probably invalid, as the case may be.
Absolution certainly invalid is never lawful, but absolution probably
valid may in certain cases be regarded as lawful before administration,
and as valid after administration. Hence, the following cases must be

(a) Outside of danger of death, it is not lawful to absolve one who is
in substantial ignorance about any of those four mysteries. Such a
person should be sent away for further instruction, or given a brief
instruction then and there, if there is time.

(b) In danger of death, when instruction cannot be given, an adult in
substantial ignorance about the Trinity and Incarnation may be absolved
conditionally, for the reason given in the similar case of Baptism.

(c) After the fact, absolution given to one who was in substantial
ignorance of the Trinity and Incarnation, may be regarded as valid,
since the opinion that explicit knowledge of these mysteries is not a
necessary means, is at least probable. Hence, according to the
principles of Probabilism a penitent who made confessions While
ignorant of those two mysteries is not obliged to repeat his
confessions, since he has probably satisfied his obligation.

793. In the following cases (which would be rare, it seems) Baptism or
absolution cannot be administered, even to the dying who are unable to
receive instruction: (a) when it is certain that the dying person is
substantially ignorant about the existence of God, the Author of grace
and glory; (b) when it is certain that the dying person is
substantially ignorant of the Trinity and Incarnation through his own
fault, and is unwilling to hear about them.

794. Practical rules for granting the Sacraments in case of doubt or
urgency to those who seem to be indisposed on account of substantial
ignorance are the following:

(a) In danger of death, when instruction is out of the question, if
there is doubt about his ignorance, the dying person should be given
the benefit of the doubt.

(b) In danger of death, and when instruction is impossible, if there is
doubt about the mental ability of the dying person and his obligation
to have explicit faith, he should receive the benefit of the doubt.

(c) In danger of death or other urgent necessity, when instruction is
needed and possible, it should be given briefly as follows: "Let us say
the act of faith: I believe in one God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
who has promised to take to Himself after this life all those that love
Him, and who punishes the wicked. I hope to have the happiness of being
received into His companionship through the help of Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, who became man and died for my salvation." This or a
similar instruction should be given by the priest or lay person present
in baptizing an adult who is about to die. When there is not immediate
danger of death, a person who is baptized or absolved after short
instruction on account of emergency, should be admonished of the duty
of receiving fuller instruction later on.

795. Faith is the free exercise of the free assent of the intellect to
the unseen, an acceptance of obligations and tasks hard to human
nature. It is, therefore, an act of homage to the authority of God, and
is meritorious: "By faith the ancient patriarchs obtained the promises"
(Heb., xi. 33). Is the freedom and meritoriousness of this act of faith
lessened if one seeks for other arguments than the authority of God in
giving one's assent to revelation?  (a) The merit of the act of faith
is not lessened, when one seeks human arguments for the assent of
credibility which is prior to the assent of faith; for it is only the
part of prudence that one should first assure oneself of the fact that
a revelation has been made, before one assents on faith to the
doctrines contained in that revelation. Now, the arguments by which one
assures oneself of the fact of a revelation are human arguments, such
as proofs that revelation is possible and suitable, that there are
miracles, prophecies and other signs to guarantee the divine mission of
those who delivered the revelation, etc.

(b) The merit of the act of faith is not lessened if one seeks human
arguments for the preambles of faith, that is, for those divine truths
that can be established by natural reason (such as the existence of
God, His infinite knowledge and truthfulness). The person who
demonstrates these preambles by philosophical proofs, has knowledge,
not belief, about them; but the merit of faith is not lost, if, while
knowing these truths, he remains willing to accept them on the
authority of revelation.

(c) The merit of faith is not lessened, if one seeks human arguments
for the mysteries of faith, that is, for those truths of revelation
that are above human reason (such as the Trinity and the Incarnation),
provided these arguments are sought not for the demonstration, but for
the confirmation or defense of dogma. Nay, a person ought, in so far as
he is able, to use his reason in the service of faith, and to do so is
a sign, not of little, but of great faith. "Be ready always," says St.
Peter (I Peter, iii. 15), "to satisfy everyone that asketh you a reason
of that hope which is in you." And St. Anselm says: "It appears to me a
sign of carelessness, if, having been confirmed in the faith, we do not
take pains to understand what we believe." St. Thomas writes: "When a
man is willing to believe, he loves the truth, meditates upon it, and
takes to heart whatever reasons he can find in support thereof; and
with regard to this, human reason does not exclude the merit of faith,
but is a sign of greater merit."

(d) The merit of faith is lessened if one seeks human arguments as the
formal object, that is, as the motive on which faith is grounded; for
then one does not wish to believe, or to believe so readily, on the
word of God alone, but feels one must call in other testimony to
support it.

The attempt to understand mysteries or to establish them by natural
reason is opposed to the humble assent of faith: "He that is a
searcher of majesty, shall be overwhelmed by glory" (Prov., xxv. 27);
"Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into
things above thy ability" (Ecclus., iii. 22); "Faith loses its merit,
if it is put to the test of reason" (St. Gregory the Great, Hom. xxvi).

796. Besides the internal act of acceptance of revealed truth, faith
has also external acts. (a) It commands the external acts of the other
virtues, that is, acts directed to the specific ends of those virtues.
Hence, one who fasts exercises an external act of the virtue of
temperance, but it is his faith in the virtue that commands the fast.
(b) Faith elicits the external act of profession of faith as its own
proper external act directed to its own specific end: "I believed, for
which cause I have spoken" (Ps. cxv. 10; II Cor., iv. 13). External
profession of faith, therefore, is not an act proceeding from faith; it
is an act of faith. The necessity of this act will be considered below
in the article about the commandments of faith.

797. The Habit of Faith.--Faith is not only an act that passes, but it
is also a permanent quality or habit conferred by God, one of the "most
great and perfect promises" which man must make use of (II Peter, i. 3
sqq.), a charism that is not for a time but for all this life, just
like hope and charity (I Cor., xiii. 13). God, who does all things
sweetly (Wis., viii. 1), and who has provided for His natural creatures
internal powers by which they incline and move themselves towards the
ends of their activities, has not done less for those whom He moves to
a supernatural destiny; and, in justifying the sinner, He infuses along
with grace the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity (Council
of Trent, Sess. VI, Cap. 6).

798. The virtue of faith is thus defined by the Council of the Vatican:
"Faith is a supernatural virtue, by which, with the help of God's
grace, we believe the truths revealed by Him, not on account of an
intrinsic evidence of the truths themselves, perceived by natural
reason, but on account of the authority of God who revealed them."

799. Hence, the virtue of faith has the following properties:

(a) It is supernatural, not only because its object and motive are
supernatural, but because it proceeds from a supernatural principle,
i.e., grace (John, vi, 29; Eph., ii. 8).

(b) It is obscure, because the believer assents to that which has no
intrinsic evidence for him. He does not see its truth as the blessed
see God, for "we see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then
face to face" (I Cor., xiii. 12). He does not know its truth as he
knows evident or naturally demonstrated propositions, for faith is
about truths that surpass reason--things "that appear not." This, of
course, does not mean that faith is not rightly called a new light
added to the mind, and that the motives which call for the acceptance
of faith are not evidently credible.

(c) It is free, because, although one cannot dissent from that which is
evident intrinsically (e.g., that two and two make four), one is able
to dissent from that which is obscure.

(d) It is not a process of reasoning, but a simple act of assent, in
which one accepts at the same time the authority of the Revealer and
the truth of His revelation. "Jesus said to her (Martha): I am the
resurrection and the life .... Believest thou this? She saith to Him:
Yea, Lord, I have believed that Thou art the Christ, etc." (John, xi.

(e) It is firm and unshaken in a far higher degree than the assent of
understanding and science, since it rests on the infallible authority
of God (I Thess., ii. 13).

800. Before justification, faith exists, it seems, only as an act
performed under the influence of actual or transitory grace. After the
infusion of habitual grace, faith is a habit or infused virtue. But
there are two modes of existence characteristic of this one habit, and
hence the distinction of living and dead faith (Gal., v. 6; James, ii.

(a) Living faith is that which is informed or animated by charity. This
latter virtue is called the soul of all the other virtues, inasmuch as
it directs them to their supreme end, divine friendship, and gives
meritorious value to their works. All those have living faith who join
to belief a life in agreement with belief--that is, the state of grace,
love of God and good works.

(b) Dead faith is that which is separated from charity. It is a true
virtue, because it directs the assent of the intellect to its proper
end; but it is an imperfect virtue, because its acts are not directed
to the Last End, and are not meritorious of eternal life. All those who
believe, but who do not live up to their belief in matters of
importance, who neglect serious duties to God or others, have dead
faith. Examples are those who call themselves Catholics, but neglect
attendance at church and the reception of the Sacraments.

801. Those who have, or who had faith, are the following:

(a) the Angels in the state of probation and our first parents in
Paradise, for faith is necessary as a means in every condition short of
the beatific vision (see 785, 158); (b) those in this life who are in
the friendship of God, and also those believers who are not in the
friendship of God, the former having living, and the latter dead faith
(see 800); (c) the souls in purgatory, the ancient patriarchs in limbo.

802. Those who have not faith are the following: (a) those who have
vision of the truths of faith, that is, the Saints in heaven and Christ
while on earth (I Cor., xiii. 10); (b) those who reject obstinately
even one doctrine of faith, for, if individual judgment is put above
the authority of God even in one point, the motive or keystone of
faith, and therefore faith itself, is no longer assented to; (c) the
lost, for, being cut off entirely from grace, these possess no virtue
infused by God. "The devils believe and tremble" (James, ii. 19), but
their belief is not supernatural or free, but natural and unwilling.

803. Of those who have faith, some have greater, and some less faith.
Thus, our Lord reproved St. Peter for his little faith (Matt., xiv.
31), and praised the Woman of Canaan for her great faith (Matt., xv.
28). But since all are obliged to have supreme confidence in God and to
accept all He teaches, how is there room for different degrees of faith?

(a) Faith must be supreme appreciatively, that is, all must put the
formal object of faith, the motive of its assent, above every other
motive of assent, for the First Truth speaking deserves more adherence
than any other authority. In this respect, therefore, and in the
exclusion of every doubt, the faith of all is equal. But faith need not
be supreme intensively, that is, it is not required that the intellect
should feel the assent of faith more than the assent given to natural
truth, or that the will must experience the highest alacrity, devotion
and confidence; for the truths that are nearer to us move us more
vehemently than do higher and invisible truths. Hence, in this respect
the faith of one may be more firm or fervent than the faith of another,
according as one is more childlike, more loving, more intense in his
acceptance of God's Word than another.

(b) Faith must be universal, that is, we must accept the entire
material object of revelation, and none may pick and choose according
to his likes or fancies, for all of revelation has God for its Author.
In this respect the faith of all is equal, all believers accepting
twelve articles, while those who accept eleven or six or one or none,
are not believers. But faith need not be explicit as to all its
doctrines, and hence, while one believer who is not thoroughly
instructed may know only the twelve articles of the Creed, another
believer who is better instructed may know the hundreds of other truths
that are contained in the articles. In this way the faith of one is
greater extensively.

804. Can faith grow or decline in the same person? (a) If there is
question of acts of faith, the later acts can be more or less firm or
fervent than those that preceded, in the way explained in the previous
paragraph. In this sense we may understand the Apostles to have asked
of our Lord a higher degree of faith, that they might work miracles in
His name (Luke, xvii. 5). (b) If there is question of the habit of
faith, it itself is increased at every increase of sanctifying grace
(see 745). St. Paul writes to the Corinthians (II Cor., x. 15) that he
has hope of their "increasing faith." Moreover, by repeated acts of
faith the ease and delight with which the habit is exercised increases,
as is the case with acquired habits. But the habit of faith is not
diminished directly as was explained regarding the infused virtues in
general (see 745).

805. The means of growing in faith are: (a) prayer to the Father of
lights: "Lord, increase our faith" (Luke, xvii. 5); (b) reading of the
scriptures, the Lives of the Saints and other similar works, and
attendance at spiritual instructions; (c) frequent acts of faith in the
world we see not and its coming rewards; (d) exercise of faith, by
directing our thoughts, words, and actions according to the teaching of
faith, rather than according to the maxims of the world; for "the just
man liveth by faith" (Heb., x. 38), and "faith without works is dead"
(James, ii. 20).

806. The cause of faith is God. (a) It is God who directly through
revelation, or indirectly through the Church, the evangelists,
preachers, etc., "brings the message before man" (Rom., x. 15); (b) it
is God who "causes the mind of man to assent" to His message. No matter
how persuasive the teacher or how well disposed or learned the hearer
may be, faith will not come unless the light of grace leads the way
(Eph., ii. 8).

807. The effects of faith are fear of God and purification of the
heart. (a) Dead faith causes one to fear the penalties of divine
justice, that is, to have servile fear (James, ii. 19): living faith
causes one to fear sin itself, that is, to have filial fear. (b) Faith,
by elevating man to higher things, purifies his soul from the
defilements of lower things (Acts, xv. 9): if faith is dead, it at
least purifies the intellect from error; if it is living, it also
purifies the will from evil.

808. The Gifts of Understanding and Knowledge.--As was said above (see
159), the Gifts of the Holy Ghost are intended as means for perfecting
the theological virtues. There are two Gifts that serve the virtue of
faith, namely, the Gifts of Understanding and Knowledge.

(a) Faith, being assent, must have a right idea of what is proposed for
acceptance; but, as it is obscure (see 799), and as there are things
apart from faith that may corrupt our notion of it, the Gift of
Understanding is conferred, a simple perception and divine intuition
through which one receives a correct notion of the mysteries of faith.

(b) Faith, being the starting point of all supernatural activities,
must be the norm by which we judge of what we should think and do in
the affairs of life; but, as it is a simple act of assent (see 799) and
as the creatures of the world are a temptation and a snare (Wis., xiv.
11), the Gift of Knowledge is given, through which one receives a
correct judgment about the things of this world. These then take on a
new and fuller significance in the light of the teachings of faith.

809. The Gift of Understanding must not be confused with the Beatific
Vision. (a) A perfect penetration of the mysteries, which enables one
to perceive their essence and causes (e.g., the how and the why of the
Trinity), is given by the Beatific Vision; but such understanding
removes all obscurity, and is therefore insociable with faith. (b) An
imperfect penetration of the teachings of faith, which does not take
away the obscurity and mysteriousness, is given by the Gift of
Understanding, and is therefore sociable with faith. The effects of
this Gift are: it distinguishes the truths of faith from false
doctrines; it conveys a clear view of the credibility of the mystery of
faith against all difficulties and objections; it gives knowledge of
the supernatural import of the secondary truths of faith, that is, of
those revealed happenings and facts that are not themselves
supernatural (Luke, xxiv. 32); it gives understanding of the practical
aspect of a mystery--for example, that the intratrinitarian relations
of the Divine Persons are a model for the regulation of the Christian
life, in knowledge and love of divine things.

810. The Gift of Knowledge, which like the other Gifts is had by all
the just, must not be confused with sacred knowledge or theology, nor
with the extraordinary gifts of infused knowledge and the charism of

(a) The Gift of Knowledge resembles theology in that it reproduces
objectively what reason does when it argues from the visible world to
the invisible Creator; but, while subjectively theology is the result
of study in which one passes successively from premise to conclusion.
Knowledge is the result of a divine light that may be found even in the
illiterate, and it takes in at a glance all that is contained in a
process of argumentation. Through this Gift the wonders of nature, the
events of history, the arguments of philosophy, lead one firmly and
spontaneously to the Last End and the supernatural realities of faith.

(b) Infused knowledge may have for its object things purely natural
(such as truths of philosophy and the ability to speak foreign
languages), while the Gift of Knowledge is concerned only with faith,
judging what is to be believed or done according to faith.

(c) The charism of knowledge (I Cor., xii. 8) is a grace given one for
the benefit of others, by which one is able to communicate to them
successfully the teachings of faith; the Gift of Knowledge, on the
contrary, proceeds from the habit of sanctifying grace, and is intended
for the benefit of its recipient.

811. To each of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost correspond Beatitudes and
Fruits (see 159).

(a) To the Gift of Understanding corresponds the Sixth Beatitude:
"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." For by
Understanding the mind is pure from wrong ideas of truth, and sees that
God is above all that the intellect can comprehend. The two fruits that
proceed from Understanding are faith (i.e., conviction about revealed
truth) and ultimately joy, in union with God through charity. (b) To
the Gift of Knowledge corresponds the Third Beatitude: "Blessed are
they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." For by Knowledge one
judges rightly about created things, grieves over the wrong use made of
them, and is comforted when they are turned to their proper end.


(_Summa Theologica_, II-II, qq. 10-15.)

812. The sins against faith can all be reduced to four heads: (a) sins
of unbelief (see 813-886), which are opposed to the internal act of
faith; (b) sins of blasphemy (see 887-903), which are opposed to the
external act of faith; (c) sins of ignorance (see 904-911), which are
opposed to the Gift of Knowledge; (d) sins of blindness and dullness
(912), which are opposed to the Gift of Understanding.

813. The Sin of Unbelief.--Unbelief in general is a want of faith. It
is of two kinds, negative and positive.

(a) Negative unbelief is the absence of faith in a person who has never
heard of it at all, or only insufficiently. Thus, the Indians in
America before the coming of Christian missionaries were negative
unbelievers. This kind of unbelief is a punishment, since it results
from original sin; but it is not a sin itself, and those who die in
negative unbelief are lost, not on account of this, but on account of
sins against the natural law (John, xv. 22; Rom., x. 14). With this
kind of unbelief we are not here concerned.

(b) Positive unbelief is the absence of faith in one who has heard it
sufficiently, so that the lack of it is due to his own fault. This kind
of unbelief is, of course, a sin, for it supposes that one is acting
against the light one has received.

814. Positive unbelief is either a refusal or a renouncement of faith.
(a) Ordinary unbelief is a refusal of faith, that is, non-acceptance of
faith by one who has never had faith; (b) apostasy, or desertion, is
the abandonment of faith by one who formerly accepted it. This is not a
distinct kind of unbelief, since, like ordinary unbelief, it has for
its object or term the denial of revealed truth; but it is an
aggravating circumstance of unbelief (II Peter, ii. 21).

815. The sin of unbelief is, committed either directly or indirectly.
(a) It is committed directly, when one rejects what pertains to faith
(its acts, objects or motive); (b) it is committed indirectly, when one
guiltily places oneself or others in the occasion or danger of
unbelief. The dangers against faith will be considered after the sins
of unbelief (see 848-886).

816. Direct sins of unbelief are those opposed to the elements that
belong to the nature of faith and that are contained in its definition
(see 751, 798). (a) Opposed to the act of assent are sins of non-assent
or dissent (see 817-839); (b) opposed to the certitude and firmness of
assent are sins of doubt (840-846); (c) opposed to the right object of
faith are sins of credulity (847); (d) opposed to the motive of faith
is rationalism (847).

817. Sins of non-assent are those by which one omits to make an act of
faith when one should. This kind of sin will be treated when we come to
the commandments of faith as to its internal and external acts (see 925

818. Sins of dissent are sins of commission, and are of two kinds: (a)
privative unbelief, which is the want of faith in one who has heard the
faith sufficiently and should realize the obligation of embracing it,
but who refuses to believe, although he makes no opposition to faith;
(b) contrary unbelief, which is the want of faith in one who has heard
the faith and its motives of credibility sufficiently to know the duty
of embracing it, and who not only refuses to believe, but even accepts
the errors opposed to faith.

819. What is the gravity of sins of dissent, doubt, and rationalism?
(a) From their nature, these sins are always mortal, for they refuse to
God the homage of the intellect and will that is due Him, deprive man
of the beginning of spiritual life, and lead to eternal condemnation
(Mark, xvi. 16). (b) From their circumstances, these and other sins
against faith may be venial (see 180-184). Thus, if a man refuses to
believe or accepts error, not having sufficient knowledge of his
obligation or not fully consenting to the sin, his fault is venial
subjectively or formally.

820. Are sins against faith more serious than all other kinds of sin?
(a) From their nature, sins against faith are worse than sins against
the moral virtues, for the former offend directly against God Himself,
but not so the latter. Hatred of God, however, is a greater sin than
sins of unbelief, as will be shown when we treat of sins against
charity. (b) From their circumstances, sins against faith may be less
serious than sins against the moral virtues. Example: A venial sin
against faith is less serious than a mortal sin against justice.

821. With regard to the effect of sins against faith on good acts it
should be noted: (a) an unbeliever is able to perform works that are
ethically or naturally good (Rom., ii. 14), and the Church has
condemned the opposite teaching of Baius (Denzinger, _Enchiridion_, n.
1025). (b) an unbeliever is not able to perform works that are
supernaturally good and meritorious (see 112).

822. Contrary unbelief (see 818), which not only refuses to believe but
also assents to contrary errors, has three degrees according to the
greater or less number of truths denied or errors admitted in these
three degrees. Some theologians see different species of unbelief,
while other theologians regard them as only accidental modes or
circumstances of the one species of sin.

(a) The most extensive denial of faith is found in infidelity, which
rejects both Christ and His revelation. To this form of unbelief belong
atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, paganism, polytheism, animism, and
denials of Christ and Christianity. The chief religious bodies today
that profess such errors are: Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism
(founded in China and Japan), which are polytheistic and practise
idolatry and ancestor worship; Brahmanism (founded about 14 centuries
before Christ), which is polytheistic or animistic: Buddhism (founded
6th century B.C. in India), which is polytheistic and practises
idolatry; Zoroastrianism (founded in Persia about the 7th century
B.C.), which is dualistic; Mohammedanism (founded in Arabia in the 6th
century A.D.), which makes Mohammed and his religion superior to Christ
and Christianity, and rejects the Trinity and the Incarnation.  (b) A
less complete departure from faith is found when Christ and His
revelation are accepted as contained in the figures and prophecies of
the Old Testament, but rejected in their fulfillment and development in
Jesus and the New Testament. This is the error of Judaism, which today
has about 15 million adherents.

(c) A still smaller degree of rejection of faith exists when Christ is
recognized as leader and teacher, but not all of His revelation is
accepted. This kind of error is called heresy, and those bodies which
profess it are known as sects. The chief heresies in times past were
Gnosticism and Manicheism in the first centuries; Arianism and
Macedonianism in the fourth century; Nestorianism, Monophysism and
Pelagianism in the fifth century; Monothelism in the seventh century;
Iconoclasm in the eighth century; Photianism in the ninth century;
Albigensianism in the eleventh century; Waldensianism in the twelfth
century; Wicliffism in the fourteenth century; Hussism in the fifteenth
century; Protestantism in the sixteenth century, and Modernism in the
twentieth century. Today, the erring Christian groups outside the
Church are the Orientals, called Orthodox, and the Protestants.

823. Since error is not consistent, false teachings are found that
accept all the above-mentioned degrees of unbelief, or borrow
impartially from all.

(a) Indifferentism or Latitudinarianism holds that all forms of
religion are equally true, and that it makes no difference whether one
is Buddhist, Jew or Christian. In a modified form, Indifferentism
teaches that any form of Christian belief, provided it suits the
inclinations of the individual concerned, may be followed, and hence it
is left to each one to decide whether he prefers Catholicism or one of
the bodies of the Orthodox Church or of Protestantism. Many who profess
a denominational creed or confession are Indifferentists in belief.

(b) Syncretism holds that there are truths in all separate religions,
but that none of them has all the truth, and hence that one must select
what is good from each, rejecting the evil. Thus, the Judaizers of the
first century borrowed from Judaism, the Gnostics and Manicheans from
paganism, while today Freemasonry, Theosophy, Christian Science and
Spiritism accept, along with the Gospel, ancient pagan, Buddhistic,
Brahmanistic and Mohammedan theories; finally, Mormonism endeavors to
unite characteristics of the Old and the New Testament dispensations.
In a restricted form, religious Syncretism teaches the doctrine of
Pan-Christianism--that is, that truth is scattered among the various
Christian denominations, and that all should confederate as equals on
the basis of more important doctrines to be agreed on by all.

824. What is the order of gravity in unbelief, as between infidelity,
Judaism, heresy?

(a) The gravity of a sin against faith is to be determined primarily
from the subjective resistance made to faith, so that he sins more
against the light to whom greater light was given. The sin of unbelief
in one who has received the Gospel (heresy), is greater than the same
sin in one who has accepted only the Old Testament (Judaism); in one
who has received the revelation of the Old Testament (Judaism) the sin
of unbelief is more serious than the same sin in one who has not
received that revelation (infidelity).

(b) The gravity of unbelief is measured secondarily from the objective
opposition of error to truth, so that he is farther away from faith who
is farther away from Christ and the Gospel. Thus, a Buddhist denies
Christian truths more radically than a Jew, and a Jew more radically
than a Protestant. Hence, of three apostates, one to Protestantism,
another to Judaism and a third to Buddhism, the second sins more
grievously than the first, the third more grievously than the second.

825. If we leave out of consideration the radical truth of divine
revelation (formal object of faith), it is possible that a heretic, in
spite of his acceptance of Christ and the scriptures, should be farther
away objectively from faith than an infidel--that is, that he should
deny more revealed truths (material objects of faith). Thus, the
Manicheans called themselves followers and disciples of Christ, but
their teaching on God contains more errors than does the doctrine of
many pagans.

826. Heresy.--Heresy is defined as "an error manifestly opposed to
faith and assented to obstinately by one who had sincerely embraced the
faith of Christ."

(a) It is called "error," that is, positive assent given to error, or
dissent from truth. Hence, those who merely act or speak as if they do
not believe, but who internally do believe, are not heretics, although
in the external forum they may fall under the presumption of heresy.
Similarly, those who have doubts or difficulties in matters of faith,
but who do not allow these to sway their judgment, are not guilty of
heresy, since they give no positive assent to error (see 842 sqq.).
Examples: Titus is internally convinced of the truth of the Church's
teaching; but he attends Protestant services, says he does not believe
the Trinity, refuses to make a profession of faith required by the
Church, separates himself from obedience to the authorities of the
Church, and calls himself an independent. By his former external acts
he makes himself guilty of disobedience and falls under the suspicion
of heresy, and by his last external act he incurs the guilt of schism;
but, since internally he does not disbelieve, he is not a heretic.
Balbus has doubts before his mind from his reading or conversation, but
he must immediately give his whole attention to a very pressing matter
of business, and so gives neither assent nor dissent to the doubts. He
is not guilty of heresy, since he formed no positive erroneous judgment.

(b) Heresy is "opposed to faith." By faith here is understood divine
faith, especially divine and Catholic faith (see 755). Hence, an error
opposed to what one held to be a genuine private revelation, or to the
public revelation, especially when dogmatically defined by the Church,
is heretical. On the contrary, an error opposed to ecclesiastical faith
alone, to human faith, or to human science, is not of itself heretical.
Examples: The Saints who received special private revelations from
Christ with proofs of their genuineness would have been guilty of
heresy, had they refused to believe. Sempronius refuses to believe some
Biblical teachings about things not pertaining to faith and morals and
not expressly defined by the Church (e.g., chronological, physical,
geographical, statistical data). If he really believes that what he
denies is contained in the Bible, he is guilty of heresy. Balbus admits
the infallibility and authority of the Church, but he does not believe
that a certain Saint solemnly canonized is in heaven, that a certain
non-infallible decision of a Roman Congregation is true, that certain
second lessons of the Breviary or certain relics are genuine. He is not
a heretic, since, as supposed, he denies no revealed truth; but in his
first unbelief he sins against ecclesiastical faith; in his second
unbelief, if the contrary of the decision has not been clearly
established, he sins against the duty of religious assent; in his third
unbelief, he sins against prudence, if he has no good grounds for his
opinion, or against the respect due the Church, if he is moved by
contempt for its judgment. In a conversation between A, B, C, D and E,
the following opinions are defended. A thinks that any use of natural
knowledge with reference to matters of faith is wrong; B, that the
theologian should employ mathematics and physical science, but avoid
reasoning and philosophy; C, that the method and principles of
Scholasticism are not suited to our ago or to all peoples; D, that the
psychology and cosmology of the Scholastics should be remade entirely;
E, that many hypotheses of Aristotle in physics have been proved false.
The opinion of A contains heresies condemned in the Vatican Council
regarding the preambles of faith and the motives of credibility. The
opinions of B and C are at least contrary to the religious assent due
the authority of the Church (see Denzinger, Enchiridion, nn. 1652,
1680, 1713, Code of Canon Law, Canon 1366, Sec.2, _Humani Generis_, n.
11-14). The opinion of D, as it stands, contains a denial of several
doctrines of faith, such as the immortality of the soul and the
creation of the world, and is thus implicitly heretical. The opinion of
E is true and admitted by all.

(c) By "opposed" to faith is meant any judgment which, according to the
logical rules of opposition between propositions, is irreconcilable
with the truth of a formula of dogma or of a censure of heresy.
Examples: The Council of Trent defined that "all sins committed after
Baptism can be forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance." It would be
heretical, therefore, to hold that "no sins committed after Baptism can
be pardoned in the Sacrament of Penance" (contrary opposition), or that
"some sins committed after Baptism cannot be absolved" (contradictory
opposition), Similarly, the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, Can. 7)
rejected the proposition that "all Works done before justification are
sinful," and hence according to Logic the contradictory--viz., that
"some works before justification are not sinful"--is of faith, for two
contradictories cannot both be false; the contrary--viz., that "no
works before justification are sinful"--is not, however, defined, for
two contraries can both be false.

(d) Heresy is "manifestly opposed to faith." He who denies what is only
probably a matter of faith, is not guilty of heresy. Example: The
Instruction of Eugenius IV on the matter of the Sacraments is held by
some authorities of note not to be a definition, and hence those who
accept opposite theories are not on that account heretical.

(e) Heresy is "assented to obstinately," This is the distinctive note
of heresy, and hence those who assent to error through ignorance,
whether vincible or invincible, are not heretics, if they are willing
to accept the truth when known. A heretic, therefore, is one who
knowingly refuses to admit a truth proposed by the Church, whether his
motive be pride, desire of contradicting, or any other vice.

(f) Heresy is held "by one who had sincerely embraced the faith of
Christ." This includes only catechumens and the baptized, for others
who deny the truths of faith are Jews or infidels, not heretics.

827. The sin of heresy (heresy before God), as just defined, differs
from the canonical crime of heresy (heresy before the Church), since it
is more inclusive. (a) These two differ as regards the error in the
intellect, for one is guilty of the sin, but not of the crime, even
without error--that is, if one denies what is really false, thinking
it to be defined doctrine; (b) they differ as regards the obstinacy in
the will, for one is guilty of the sin, but not of the crime, if one is
prepared in mind and purpose to deny a truth not yet defined, if it is
ever defined; (c) they differ as regards the truths rejected, for one
is guilty of the sin, but not of the crime, if one rejects divinely
revealed truths not defined as such by the Church; (d) they differ as
regards the person who denies, for not everyone who merely accepted the
faith of Christ can be guilty of the crime of heresy, but only those
who after Baptism retain the name of Christian (Canon 1325, Sec.2).

828. Various Kinds of Heresy.--(a) Heresy is positive when error is
accepted (e.g., the doctrine of consubstantiation); it is negative when
truth is denied (e.g., the doctrine of transubstantiation).

(b) Heresy is internal, when it is in the mind alone and not externally
professed. It is external, when expressed in an external way (i.e., by
words, signs, acts or circumstances that clearly indicate present
heresy), if this is done not for a good purpose, such as that of asking
advice, but for the purpose of professing error.

(c) External heresy is occult, when it is made known to no one, or only
to a few; it is public or notorious, when it is made known before a
large number and cannot be concealed. Example: One who calls himself a
Catholic and is known as such, but who in conversation with a few
intimate friends declares himself a Modernist, is an occult heretic.
One who declares in public addresses or articles that he agrees with
Modernism, or who joins openly an heretical sect or has always belonged
to one, is a public heretic.

(d) Occult and public heresy may be either formal or material,
according as one is in good or bad faith. Heresy is formal, if its
malice is known and willed by the one in error; if its malice is not
known by him, it is material.

829. Heresy is not formal unless one pertinaciously rejects the truth,
knowing his error and consenting to it.

(a) One must know that one's belief is opposed to divine revelation or
to Catholic faith. Hence, those who were born and brought up in
Protestantism, and who in good faith accept the confession of their
denomination, are not formal but material heretics. Even those who are
ignorant of their errors through grave fault and who hold to them
firmly, are guilty, not of formal heresy, but of sinful ignorance (see
904 sqq.)

(b) One must willingly consent to the error. But for formal heresy it
is not required that a person give his assent out of malice, or that he
continue in obstinate rejection for a long time, or that he refuse to
heed admonitions given him. Pertinacity here means true consent to
recognized error, and this can proceed from weakness (e.g., from anger
or other passion); it can be given in an instant, and does not
presuppose an admonition disregarded. Hence, if one sees the truth of
the Catholic Church, but fears that assent will involve many
obligations and out of weakness turns away from the truth, one then and
there pertinaciously consents to error.

830. Examples of material heresy are: (a) Catholics who deny certain
dogmas of faith, because they have not been well instructed, but who
are ready to correct their errors, whenever the Church's teaching is
brought home to them; (b) non-Catholics who do not accept the Catholic
Church, but who have never had any misgivings about the tenets of their
own denomination, or who in doubts have searched for the truth to the
best of their ability.

831. The sinfulness of heresy is as follows: (a) formal heresy is a
grave sin, as was said above regarding unbelief in general (see 819;
Tit., iii. 10); (b) material heresy is no sin at all, if the ignorance
is invincible; it is a grave or a venial sin, according to the amount
of negligence, if the ignorance is vincible.

832. Circumstances of the sin of heresy are of various kinds. (a)
Circumstances that change the species. Most theologians hold that the
particular article denied, or the particular sect adhered to, does not
constitute a particular species of heresy, and hence that in confession
it suffices for one to accuse oneself generically of heresy. (b)
Circumstances that aggravate the sin. The facts that heresy is
external, that it is manifested to a large number, that it is joined
with apostasy and adhesion to an heretical sect, etc., increase the
accidental malice of this sin. (c) Circumstances that multiply the
number of sins. It seems that when several articles or defined truths
are denied at the same time, so many numerically distinct sins are
committed (see 219). Example: Titus says: "I do not accept the
Resurrection, either of Christ or of the dead." The act is one, but two
sins are committed.

833. Various penalties and inhabilities are incurred through heresy,
for example, excommunication _latae sententiae_ reserved to the Pope
(Canon 2314), loss of the power of suffrage (Canon 167, Sec.1, n.4),
irregularity (Canon 984, n. 5; 985), inhability for the office of
sponsor (Canons 765, 795), deprivation of ecclesiastical burial (Canon
1240, Sec.1, n. 1). The excommunication which perhaps had been incurred by
those who now wish to join the Church is absolved according to the form
for the reception of converts prescribed by the Congregation of the
Holy Office, July 20, 1859, and found in rituals. Rituals published
after March, 1942, contain the formula of profession of faith and
abjuration approved by the Holy Office.

834. If a confessor should meet with a case of heresy, his procedure
will be as follows: (a) If the heresy was merely internal, no censure
was incurred, and every confessor has power to absolve from the sin, no
matter how serious it was. (b) If the heresy was external, but the
person was in good faith, or even in affected ignorance of the sin, or
inculpably ignorant of the penalty, no censure was incurred; for the
excommunication attaches only to formal heresy, and contumacity (Canon
2242). (c) If the heresy was external and formal, but not notorious
(i.e., the party did not publicly join an heretical sect), ordinarily
the case should be brought before the bishop for absolution in the
external or internal forum. But in urgent cases every confessor has
power to absolve as prescribed in Canon 2254. (d) If the heresy was
public and notorious (i.e., if the party joined officially an heretical
sect), absolution is regularly to be given in both the external and
internal forums. The case should be submitted first to the Ordinary,
unless there is urgency (Cfr. Canon 2254), or the confessor has special
powers from Rome. The Ordinary can absolve in the external forum.
Afterwards, the heretic can be absolved by any confessor in the forum
of conscience (see Canon 2314, Sec.2.)

835. Apostasy.--Apostasy (etymologically, desertion) has various
meanings in theology.

(a) In a special sense, it means the abandonment of the religious or
clerical state; but in its usual sense it means the abandonment of the
Christian religion.

(b) Apostasy from faith in a wide sense includes both partial
abandonment (heresy) and total abandonment; but, in the strict sense,
it means only total abandonment of Christianity.

Example: A Christian who denies one article of the Creed becomes a
heretic and an apostate in a wide sense; if he rejects the entire
Creed, he becomes an infidel and an apostate in the strict sense.

(c) Apostasy which extends to infidelity is also twofold: before God
and before the Church. The first kind is committed by any person who
really had faith, even though unbaptized or not a Catholic; the second
kind is committed only by those who were baptized and were Catholics.
Examples: A catechumen who accepted Christianity and asked for Baptism,
becomes an apostate before God if he abandons his belief and purpose
and goes back to paganism. Similarly, a person brought up as a Lutheran
becomes an apostate before God, if he abandons all belief in
Christianity. But the crime of apostasy of which the Church takes
cognizance is the desertion of Christianity by a baptized Catholic.

(d) A Catholic apostatizes from Christianity, either privatively (by
merely renouncing all belief in Christ), or contrarily (by taking up
some form of unbelief, such as indifferentism or free thought, or by
joining some infidel sect, such as Mohammedanism or Confucianism).

836. What was said above regarding the gravity, divisions, penalties
and absolution of heresy, can be applied also to apostasy.

887. As to the comparative gravity of sins of apostasy, the following
should be noted. (a) Apostasy is not a species of sin distinct from
heresy, since both are essentially the same in malice, being rejections
of the authority of divine revelation; but it is a circumstance that
aggravates the malice of unbelief, since it is more sweeping than
heresy (see 822, 824). (b) Apostasy into one form of infidelity is not
specifically different from apostasy into another, but the form of
infidelity is an aggravating or extenuating circumstance. Example:
Paganism is further from faith than Mohammedanism; atheism further than

838. Could one ever have a just reason for abandoning the Catholic
Church or remaining outside its faith? (a) Objectively speaking, there
can never be a just cause for giving up Catholicism or for refusing to
embrace it. For the Catholic Church is the only true Church, and it is
the will of Christ that all should join it. (b) Subjectively speaking,
there may be a just cause for leaving or not entering the Church,
namely, the fact that a person, ignorant in this matter but in good
faith, believes that the Catholic Church is not the true Church. For
one is obliged to follow an erroneous conscience, and, if the error is
invincible, one is excused from sin (see 581-583). Examples: A
Protestant taught to believe that the teachings of the Church are
idolatrous, superstitious and absurd, is not blamed for not accepting
them. A Catholic, poorly instructed in religion and thrown in with
non-Catholic and anti-Catholic associates, might become really
persuaded, and without sinning against faith itself, that it was his
duty to become a Protestant.

839. Apostasy is committed not only by those who leave the Church and
join some contrary religion (e.g., Mormonism), but also by those who,
while professing to be Catholics, assent to the non-Catholic principles
of some society that claims to be philosophical, charitable, economic,
patriotic, etc. Much more are those apostates who join societies that
openly conspire against the Church. Such are: (a) Societies that are
really non-Catholic sects, because they have an infidel or heretical
creed--e.g., Freemasonry (which, according to its own authorities, is a
brotherhood based on Egyptian mysteries and claiming superiority to
Christianity), Theosophy (which is a conglomeration of nonsensical
ideas about the Deity, Christ and Redemption), the Red International,
whose aims are the destruction of property rights, etc; (b) Societies
that are anti-Catholic sects, because their creed is hatred of the
Church--e.g., the Orangemen's Society, the Grand Orient, the Ku Klux
Klan, Junior Order, etc.

840. The Sin of Doubt.--Faith as explained above must be firm assent,
excluding doubt (see 752, 799), and hence the saying: "He who doubts is
an unbeliever." The word "doubt," however, has many meanings, and in
some of those meanings it is not opposed to firm assent, or has not the
voluntariness or acceptance of error that the unbelief of heresy or
infidelity includes. To begin with, doubt is either methodical or real.

(a) Methodical doubt in matters of faith is an inquiry into the motives
of credibility of religion and the reasons that support dogma, made by
one who has not the slightest fear that reason or science can ever
contradict faith, but who consults them for the purpose of clarifying
his knowledge and of strengthening his own faith or that of others.
This kind of doubt is employed by St. Thomas Aquinas, who questions
about each dogma in turn (e.g., "Whether God is good"), and examines
the objections of unbelievers against it; but unlike his namesake, the
doubting Apostle, he does not withhold assent until reason has answered
the objectors, but answers his own questions by an act of faith: "In
spite of all difficulties, God is good, for His Word says: 'The Lord is
good to them that hope in Him, to the soul that seeketh Him' (Lament,
iii. 25)."

(b) Real doubt, on the contrary, entertains fears that the teachings of
revelation or of the Church may be untrue, or that the opposite
teachings may be true.

841. Real doubt in matters of faith is always unjustifiable in itself,
for there is never any just reason for doubting God's word; but it is
not always a sin of heresy or of infidelity. There are two kinds of
real doubt, viz., the involuntary and the voluntary. (a) Doubt is
involuntary, when it is without or contrary to the inclination of the
will, or when it proceeds from lack of knowledge (see 40-55 on the
Impediments to Voluntariness). Example: Indeliberate doubts, and doubts
that persist in spite of one, lack the inclination of the will, while
doubts that proceed from invincible ignorance lack knowledge. (b) Doubt
is voluntary, when it is according to inclination and with sufficient

842. Involuntary doubt in matters of faith is neither heretical nor
sinful, for an act is not sinful, unless it is willed (see 99).

(a) Indeliberate doubts arise in the mind before they are adverted to
and without any responsibility of one's own for their appearance. From
what was said above on first motions of the soul (see 129), it is clear
that such doubts are not sinful.

(b) Unwelcome doubts persist in the mind after they have been adverted
to, and, since faith is obscure (see 752, 799), it is not possible to
exclude all conscious doubts, or even to prevent them from occurring
often or lasting a considerable time. From what was said above on
temptation (see 253 sqq.), it is clear that, if the person troubled
with unwished doubts makes prompt and sufficient resistance, he not
only does not sin, but gains merit. But, if his resistance is not all
it should be, and there is no danger of consent to the temptation, he
sins venially.

(c) Ignorant doubts occur in persons who have not received sufficient
religious instruction, through no fault of their own, and who therefore
regard the doctrines of faith as matters of opinion, or at least look
upon doubts as not sinful. From what was said above on invincible
ignorance (see 30), it is clear that such persons do not sin by their

843. Voluntary doubt is entertained either in ignorance for which one
is responsible, or in full knowledge; in the former case it is
indirectly voluntary, in the latter, directly voluntary.

(a) The doubts of one who is responsible for them because he did not
use the means to instruct himself in the faith, are a sin of willful
ignorance proportionate to the negligence of which he was guilty; but,
if he is willing on better knowledge to put aside his doubts and accept
the teaching of the Church, he is not pertinacious, and hence not
guilty of heresy or infidelity.

(b) The doubts of one who is responsible for them, and not uninstructed
or ignorant in faith, are sometimes positive, sometimes negative.
Neither of these kinds of doubt is equivalent to heresy or infidelity
in every case.

844. Negative doubt is the state of mind in which one remains suspended
between the truth contained in an article of faith and its opposite,
without forming any positive judgment either of assent to or dissent
from the article, or its certainty or uncertainty.

(a) If this suspension of decision results from a wrong motive of the
will, which directs one not to give assent on the plea that the
intellect, while not judging, offers such formidable difficulties that
deception is possible, then it seems that the doubter is guilty of
implicit heresy, or at least puts himself in the immediate danger of

(b) If this suspension of judgment results from some other motive of
the will (e.g., from the wish to give attention here and now to other
matters), the guilt of heresy is not incurred, for no positive judgment
is formed. Neither does it seem, apart from the danger of consent to
positive doubt or from the obligation of an affirmative precept of
faith then and there (see 925), that any serious sin in matters of
faith is committed by such a suspension of judgment. Examples: Titus,
being scandalized by the sinful conduct of certain Catholics, is
tempted to doubt the divinity of the Church. He does not yield to the
temptation by deciding that the divinity of the Church is really
doubtful, but the difficulty has so impressed him that he decides to
hold his judgment in abeyance. It seems that there is here an implicit
judgment (i.e., one contained in the motive of the doubt) in favor of
the uncertainty of the divinity of the Church. Balbus has the same
difficulty as Titus, and it prevents him from eliciting an act of faith
on various occasions. But the reason for this is that an urgent
business matter comes up and he turns his attention to it, or that he
does not wish at the time to weary his brain by considering such an
important question as that of faith, or that he thinks he can conquer a
temptation more easily by diverting his thoughts to other subjects (see
257), or that he puts off till a more favorable moment the rejection of
the difficulty. In these cases there is not heretical doubt, since
Balbus forms no positive judgment, even implicitly, but there may be a
sin against faith. Thus, Balbus would sin seriously if his suspension
of assent should place him in immediate danger of positive doubt; he
would sin venially, if that suspension be due to some slight

845. Positive doubt is the state of mind in which one decides, on
account of some difficulty against faith, that the latter is really
doubtful and uncertain, and that assent cannot be given to either side.
With regard to such a state of mind note: (a) If this judgment is
formed by a Catholic, it is heretical; for his faith, as he knows and
admits, is the true faith, revealed and proposed as absolutely certain.
Hence, although he does not deny the faith, he does positively judge
that what is revealed by God and proposed infallibly by the Church as
certain, is not certain, and thus in his intellect there is
pertinacious error.

(b) If this judgment is formed by a non-Catholic, it is likewise
heretical, if the truth doubted belongs to divine or Catholic faith,
for we are now considering the formal heretic who belongs to a
non-Catholic sect against conviction; but it is not heretical, if the
doctrine doubted belongs only to what is wrongly considered in his sect
as divine faith, or to what may be called Protestant faith (i.e., the
official confession of his religion), for he does not profess to accept
his church as an infallible interpreter.

846. The doubts We have been just discussing are the passing doubts
that come to those who are believers, or who consider themselves
believers. There are also doubts that are permanent, and that are held
by those who class themselves, not as believers, but as doubters or
agnostics. Some of these sceptics doubt all religious creeds, holding
that it is works and not beliefs that matter. This doctrine amounts to
infidelity, since it rejects Christian faith entirely. Others profess
Fundamentalism, which accepts a few Christian beliefs and considers the
others as optional, pretending that the true faith cannot be recognized
amid so much diversity of opinions. This doctrine is heretical, since
it accepts some and rejects others of the articles of faith.

847. Credulity and Rationalism.--Opposed in special ways to the
material and formal objects of faith are credulity and errors about the
existence and nature of revelation.

(a) Other sins against faith are opposed to its material object (i.e.,
the articles of belief), inasmuch as they subtract from it by denying
this or that article. Credulity, on the contrary, adds to the material
object of faith by accepting a doctrine as revealed when there is no
prudent reason for so doing, contrary to the teaching of scripture that
"he who is hasty to believe is light of heart" (Ecclus., xix. 4). This
sin is opposed rather to prudence, inasmuch as it causes one to neglect
the consideration of the reasons on which a prudent judgment rests (see
Vol. II), and hence it does not destroy the virtue of faith. It is,
nevertheless, injurious to faith, since it brings Christianity into
contempt, keeps others from embracing the teachings of the Church, and
leads to superstition, the "twin-sister of unbelief." Examples:
Sempronia, who is not well educated, accepts as matters of faith every
pious legend, every marvellous report of miracle no matter from what
source it comes or how suspicious may be its appearance. Titus holds
many views considered by good authorities as improbable or false, or as
at best only opinions, but he gives them out as doctrines of the Church
that must be accepted, or as infallible or revealed teaching. The
credulity of Sempronia is excusable imprudence on account of her
ignorance, if she has not neglected instruction; but that of Titus is
blameworthy, for he ought to inform himself better before attempting to
instruct others.

(b) Other kinds of unbelief are opposed to the formal object of faith
(i.e., to the authority of revelation as the motive of belief); for
implicitly at least they substitute private judgment for authority. The
various systems of Naturalism, such as Deism, go farther and openly
attack supernatural revelation as the ground of belief. Some of these
systems deny the fact of revelation (e.g., Deism), others its character
(e.g., Modernism, which makes revelation to consist in the internal
experience of the believer), others its necessity (e.g., Rationalism).
These heterodox teachings pertain, some to infidelity (e.g., Deism),
some to heresy (c.g., Modernism). The great majority of Protestants
nowadays cannot be said to have faith, declares Cardinal Newman, since
they deduce from scripture, instead of believing a teacher. What looks
like faith is mere hereditary persuasion.

848. Dangers to Faith.--One becomes guilty of heresy, infidelity,
doubts against faith, etc., indirectly, by placing oneself in the
danger of those sins (see 258 sqq., on the Dangers of Sin). Dangers of
this kind are partly internal, partly external.

(a) Internal dangers to faith are especially the following:
intellectual pride or an excessive spirit of independence, which makes
one unwilling to accept authority; love of pleasure, which sets one at
odds with the precepts of faith; neglect of prayer and piety,
particularly in time of temptation.

(b) External dangers to faith are especially as follows: literature
opposed to religion; schools where unbelief is defended; mixed
marriages; association with unbelievers in religious matters; certain

849. Dangerous Reading.--There is a threefold prohibition against the
reading of literature dangerous to faith.

(a) The natural law forbids one to read or hear read written matter of
any description which one knows is dangerous to one's faith, even
though it is not dangerous to others and not forbidden by the law of
the Church. For a similar reason one may not keep such material in
one's possession. Example: Titus and Balbus read the letters of a
friend on Evolution. Titus finds nothing unsound in the letters, and is
not troubled by reading them; but they fill the mind of Balbus with
doubts and perplexities, as the subject is above him. This reading is
naturally dangerous for Balbus, but not for Titus.

(b) The law of the Church forbids the use of certain kinds of writings
or representations dangerous to faith (Canon 1399), as well as of those
individual writings that have been denounced to the Holy See and placed
on the Index, or forbidden by other ecclestiastical authorities. (See
Appendix I for Summary of Common Law on Prohibition of Books.)

(c) The law of the Church also pronounces ipso facto excommunication
against those who make use of works written by unbelievers in favor of
their errors (Canon 2318).

850. As regards the kind of sin committed by using writings dangerous
to faith, the following points must be noted:

(a) If a writing is dangerous and forbidden under natural law, the sin
committed is of itself grave whenever the danger itself is serious and
proximate; it is venial, when the danger is slight or remote. The sin
committed depends, therefore, not on the time spent in reading or the
number of pages covered, but on the danger (see 260-261, on the Dangers
of Sin). No sin at all is committed, if the danger is slight or remote,
and there is reason for reading the writing in question (e.g., the
defense of truth).

(b) If the writing is forbidden under ecclesiastical law, the sin
committed is of itself grave, even though the danger to an individual
is not serious or proximate, for the law is based on the presumption of
a common and great danger (see 460). The sin is not grave, however,
when the prohibition is generally regarded as not binding under grave
sin, or when the use made of the writing is inconsiderable. No sin at
all is committed, if one has obtained the necessary permission to read
forbidden works, and is not exposed to spiritual danger in using the

851. There are two cases in which the use of writings forbidden by the
Church is only a venial sin. (a) When a writing, which in itself is not
dangerous or only slightly dangerous, is forbidden, not on account of
its contents, but only on account of its lack of ecclesiastical
approval, it is not ordinarily regarded as forbidden under grave sin
(e.g., Catholic Translations of scripture that have not received the
Imprimatur). (b) When a writing has been condemned on account of its
contents or manner of presentation, one does not sin mortally, if the
use one makes of it is only slight.

852. What constitutes notable use of forbidden matter is not determined
by law, but recent moralists, bearing in mind the character of the law
and what would prove proximately dangerous to faith for the generality
today, offer the following rules: (a) notable matter in reading a book
is three or four pages from the more dangerous parts, from thirty to
sixty pages from the slightly dangerous parts; (b) notable matter in
reading a paper or periodical is habitual use of it, or even one very
bitter article; (c) notable matter in retention of forbidden writings
is a period in excess of the reasonable time (say, a month) for
securing permission or for delivering the writings to those who have a
right to have them.

853. It is more difficult to decide what is notable matter, when a book
has been condemned on account of its general tendency. (a) Under the
natural law, of course, even a page or less is notable matter, if it
places an individual in proximate danger; (b) under the positive law,
perhaps anything in excess of one-tenth of the book would place one in
proximate danger. But, as we are dealing now with the general tendency
of a writing, this may have its effect on the reader before he has read
one-tenth, if the book is large, or the treatment is very seductive.
Hence, "one-tenth" is an approximation, rather than a rule.

854. The kinds of printed matter forbidden by the Code (Canon 1399) are
as follows: (a) the prohibition extends to books, to other published
matter (such as magazines and newspapers), and to illustrations that
attack religion and what are called "holy pictures" (i.e., images of
our Lord and the Saints), if opposed to the mind of the Church; (b) the
prohibition extends to published matter dangerous to faith, and
therefore to the following; to writings or caricatures that attack the
existence of God, miracles or other foundations of natural or revealed
religion, Catholic dogma, worship or discipline, the ecclesiastical
hierarchy as such, or the clerical or religious state; to those that
defend heresy, schism, superstition, condemned errors, subversive
societies, or suicide, duelling, divorce; to non-Catholic publications
of the Bible and to non-Catholic works on religion that are not clearly
free from opposition to Catholic faith; to liturgical works that do not
agree with the authentic texts; to books that publish apocryphal
indulgences and to printed images of holy persons that would be the
occasion of error (e.g., the representation of the Holy Ghost in human

855. The mere presence, however, of condemned matter in a writing does
not cause it to fall under prohibition.

(a) Some works are not forbidden unless the author's purpose to teach
error or attack the truth is known. Hence, books on religion written by
non-Catholics which contain errors against the Catholic Faith are not
forbidden, unless they deal with religion _ex professo_ (i.e., not
incidentally or cursorily, but clearly for the purpose of teaching). It
is not necessary, however, that religion be the main theme of the book,
Similarly, books that attack religion are forbidden, not when attacks
are casual or by the way, but when they are made purposely; and the
same is true as regards books that insult the clerical state. The
purpose is recognized from the declaration of the author, from the
nature of the work, from the systematic treatment, length or frequency
of argumentation or attack, etc.

(b) Other works are not forbidden, unless they contain not only
agreement with error, but also argument in defense of error. Thus,
books in favor of heresy, schism, suicide, duelling, divorce,
Freemasonry, etc., are forbidden when they champion wrong causes by
disputing in their behalf.

(c) Other works are forbidden, not because they state, but because they
approve of error. Such are books that attack or ridicule the
foundations of religion or the dogmas of faith, those that disparage
worship, those that are subversive of discipline, those that defend
proscribed propositions, those that teach and favor superstition, etc.

856. Books that deal with religion _ex professo_ (i.e., of set
purpose), or _obiter_ (i.e., incidentally), are as follows: (a) Books
that are _ex professo_ religious are manuals of theology, works of
sermons, treatises on the Bible, instructions on religious duties,
works of piety, text-books of church history. Works of a profane
character, such as scientific books, may also teach religion _ex
professo_, but it is not easy as a rule to perceive the intention of
teaching religion in works of this kind. (b) Books that deal with
religion only _obiter_ are works of a profane character, in which the
subject of religion is introduced only briefly (e.g., by way of

857. Books dealing _ex professo_ with religion and written by
non-Catholics are: (a) forbidden, if they contain matter contrary to
Catholic faith; (b) not forbidden, if it is clear to one (e.g., from a
competent review) that they contain nothing contrary to Catholic faith.

858. How is one to know in a particular case whether a book falls under
one of the foregoing classes forbidden by the Code? (a) If the Holy See
has made a declaration, the matter is of course clear; (b) if no
declaration has been made, and one is competent to judge for oneself,
one may read as much as is necessary to decide whether the book is one
of those proscribed by the Code; but if a person has not received the
education that would fit him for judging, he should consult some person
more skilled than himself, such as his parish priest or confessor.

859. Is it lawful to read newspapers, magazines, or reference works
(such as encyclopedias), which contain some articles contrary to faith,
and others that are good or indifferent, if these papers or books have
not been condemned? (a) If the reading or consultation, on account of
one's individual character, will subject one to grave temptations, then
according to natural law it should be avoided. (b) If there is no
serious danger or temptation, but the policy of the works or journals
in question is anti-religious or anti-Catholic, as appears from the
space given to hostile attack, their frequency or bitterness of spirit,
then, according to the law of the Code just mentioned, one should avoid
such reading matter. Examples of this kind of literature are papers
devoted to atheistic or bolshevistic propaganda, anti-Catholic sheets,
etc. (c) If there is no danger to the individual, and the editorial
policy is not hostile, one may use such matter as is good and useful,
while passing over any elaborate or systematic attack on truth or
defense of error.

860. Individual books are forbidden by name to all Catholics by the
Holy See and to their own subjects by Ordinaries and other local or
particular councils (Canon 1395). Books condemned by the Apostolic See
must be considered as forbidden everywhere and in whatsoever language
they may be translated into (Canon 1396).

(a) If a book is forbidden, one may not read even the harmless parts of
it, for there is the danger that, if one part is read, the other parts
will also be read. But, if the part that occasioned the prohibition be
removed, the prohibition ceases as regards the remainder of the book.

(b) If a work is forbidden, one may not read any volume, if all the
volumes deal with the same subject. But, if the volumes treat of
different subjects or of one subject that is divisible (e.g., universal
history), one may read such volumes as do not contain the danger that
occasioned the prohibition.

(c) If all the works of an author are condemned, the prohibition is
understood to apply only to books (i.e., not to smaller works), and
only to books dealing with religion, unless it appears that the other
kinds of writings are also included; but the prohibition is to be
presumed to include works that appear after the condemnation, unless
the contrary is manifest.

861. Some outstanding works that have been condemned are the following:
(a) In English: _Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire_ (Gibbons);
_Myth, Ritual, and Religion_ (Andrew Lang); _History of England_
(Goldsmith); _The Roman Popes_ (Ranke); _The Life and Pontificate of
Leo X_ (Roscoe); _Constitutional History of England_ (Hallam);
_Political Economy_ (Mill); _Happiness in Hell_ (Mivart); _History of
English Literature_ (Taine); _Reign of Charles V_ (Robertson);
_Zoonomia_, or The Laws of Organic Life (Darwin).

(b) In French: _Notre Dame de Paris_ (Hugo); _Life of Jesus_ and
eighteen other works of Renan; all the works of Anatole France; _The
Social Contract_ and four works of Rousseau; nearly all the works of
Voltaire; _The Gospel and the Church, Gospel Studies, The Fourth
Gospel, Apropos of a Little Book, The Religion of Israel_ (Loisy); all
the works of Jean Paul Sartre; _La Deuxieme Sexe_ and _Les Mandarins_
by Simone de Beauvoir.

862. What is meant by "use" of forbidden writings? (a) In the first
place, those "use" a writing who read it--that is, who go over it with
their eyes, understanding the meaning therein contained. Hence, a
person does not violate the church law against forbidden books if he
merely listens to another read; although he might sin against the
natural law, and even against the church law, if he induced the other
to read to him; neither does a person violate the church law, if he
merely glances at the characters, without understanding the sense
expressed. Example: Titus, a professor of theology, has permission to
read forbidden books, and he sometimes reads to his class doctrinal
passages from works on the Index in order to explain and refute errors.
Balbus examines very carefully the pages of a beautifully printed copy
of a forbidden work, but he understands hardly a word of it, since it
is in a foreign language. Neither Titus' class nor Balbus are guilty of
reading as forbidden by the Church, for strict interpretation is given
to penal laws (see 485).

(b) In the second place, those "use" a forbidden writing who retain
it--that is, who keep it in their home as belonging to themselves or
borrowed from another, or who give it for safekeeping to another, even
though they are not able to read it. Hence, a librarian who has
forbidden books on his shelves does not break the law, since the books
are not his property, nor are they kept in his home. A bookbinder also
who receives forbidden books is considered as excused through
_epieikeia_ for the time the books are in his shop, especially if his
customer has the permission to read those books. Example: Sempronius
bought an expensive work and then discovered that it is on the Index.
Is he obliged to destroy it? No, if he does not wish to destroy it, he
may, if he does not delay beyond a month, either give it to someone who
has permission to keep it, or obtain that permission for himself.

(c) In the third place, those "use" a forbidden writing who communicate
it to others--for example, those who make presents of works that are on
the Index, who lend such books to others, or place them where others
will read them, who read to others passages or write out excerpts for
them. It is lawful, however, for professors in theological and other
classes of sacred science to read from forbidden works to their student
body, if a suitable explanation and refutation exclude all danger.

(d) Lastly, those fall under the law as violators who co-operate in the
production or distribution of forbidden literature--for example,
publishers, owners, authors, translators, booksellers, printers, etc.
(cfr. 976 sqq., on cooperation in Worship).

863. The church law on forbidden literature affects all Catholics not
excepted by law, no matter how learned they may be, what position they
may hold, or how immune from danger they may seem, unless they obtain
permission to read such literature from the Holy See, the Ordinary, or
their regular Superior (Canon 1402). Those excepted by law and who do
not need to seek such permission are certain prelates and students. (a)
Cardinals, Bishops, and other Ordinaries (Canon 1401), and likewise
major superiors in exempt clerical orders (Canon 198, Sec. 1) are not
bound by the church prohibition of books dangerous to faith; (b) those
who are pursuing theological or biblical studies may use forbidden
editions of scripture, provided these are correct and complete as to
the text, and contain no attacks on Catholic teaching in the
introductions and annotations (Canon 1400). This permission extends not
only to seminarians, but also to lay students; not only to those who
are at school, but also to those who are really studying outside of
school, such as professors, writers and those who are preparing
lectures or dissertations.

864. When the necessity of reading a forbidden book is urgent, and the
opportunity of asking permission from the Holy See or Ordinary is
lacking, a person whose duties call for acquaintance with such a book
may consider that the law does not bind in his particular case (see
411-417 on _epieikeia_). (a) A professor, editor, critic, etc., who had
not yet received permission might read a forbidden book, if, being
called upon to criticize it, he could not await the permission; (b) a
confessor, pastor, etc., in similar circumstances could read a
forbidden book in order to be able to refute it.

865. Those who have received permission to read books forbidden as
generally dangerous to faith, may also read papers and periodicals of
the same character, and they may use the permission given them
anywhere, since it is a personal indult (see 446). The following
restrictions, however, are understood in the grant of permission:

(a) Permission to read, no matter by whom granted, does not make it
lawful to read what is really a danger to one's faith, for this (as
explained above in 849-850) is contrary to natural law. Moreover, those
who have received an apostolic indult may not read or retain books
proscribed by their Ordinaries, unless the indult extends even to this.

(b) Permission to retain does not make it lawful to keep forbidden
books in such a way that they will fall into the hands of those who
have no right to read them. On the contrary, there is a grave
obligation arising from the natural law to prevent such a thing from
happening. Hence, those who have permission to keep writings dangerous
to faith should not place them on shelves to which there is general
access, or else they should label them as dangerous and forbidden (see
Canons 1405, Sec.1, and 1403, Sec.2).

866. According to Canon 2318, the following censures are incurred
through the use of forbidden books:

(a) Excommunication specially reserved to the Apostolic See is incurred
_ipso facto_ by those who offer to the public books, even of a
non-religious character, written by apostates, schismatics, or heretics
in systematic defense of heresy or schism. This censure applies, first,
to the chief causes of publicity of the work--i.e., to the author who
offers it for publication, and to the publisher and printer (owner or
manager of the press) who accept it for that purpose--not, however, to
remote cooperators or helpers; secondly, to such chief causes as
understand the character of the book, either from the word of the
author or from the contents. It is not incurred, if the work is not
published (i.e., if it remains in manuscript, or is circulated only
privately), or if it is published in other than book form (e.g., as a
pamphlet, leaflet or article). Ignorance, if not crass or supine (see
27), excuses from this censure (Canon 2229, Sec.3, n. 1).

(b) The same censure is incurred by those who defend the aforementioned
books, either materially (e.g., by saving them from destruction) or
morally (e.g., by defending, praising, or recommending them). Ignorance
excuses here as in the case of publishers.

(c) The same censure is incurred by those who defend books of any
author condemned by name through Apostolic letters. Hence, the censure
does not apply to books condemned by a pontifical congregation nor to
books condemned in a Papal Letter, if their title is not mentioned.
Ignorance excuses here as in the previous case.

(d) The same censure is incurred by those who knowingly keep or read
any of the forbidden books mentioned so far in this paragraph. The
sense to be attached to the words "keep or read" has been given above
(see 862). Even crass and supine ignorance of law or penalty, provided
it be not affected, as well as other causes that lessen imputability
(see 40), excuse from this censure (Canon 2229, Sec.Sec.1, 2).

(e) Excommunication not reserved is incurred _ipso facto_ by authors
and publishers who are responsible for the printing without due
authorization of books of Holy Writ, or of notes or commentaries on the
Bible, even though the text be correct and the explanation orthodox.
This censure is not incurred by those who are not responsible for the
printing done, such as typesetters and readers. Ignorance, if not crass
and supine, excuses here (Canon 2229, Sec.3).

867. Dangerous Schools.--With reference to their danger to faith,
schools are of three kinds:

(a) sectarian schools, in which heresy or infidelity is prescribed as
part of the curriculum, and assistance at non-Catholic rites is
required. Examples are colleges and universities supported by
Protestant denominations, sectarian Sunday schools, Bible classes;

(b) neutral schools (i.e., schools in which all religious teaching is
forbidden and no recognition given to any denomination) whose spirit
and teaching in secular branches is anti-religious or anti-Catholic.
Examples are non-sectarian colleges or universities in which
materialism is incidentally taught, or in which the faculty are
freethinkers or bigots;

(c) neutral schools in which no positive offense is given to religion
or the Church. Examples are public schools in which only the profane
sciences are taught, and care is exercised that neither the text-books
nor the teachers shall be irreligious or interfere with the religious
beliefs of others. Reducible to this category are mixed schools, that
is, those which are open also to non-Catholics (Canon 1374).

868. The danger of the foregoing kinds of schools to the faith of
pupils is as follows:

(a) in the sectarian schools there is danger of heresy or infidelity,
since the pupils are obliged to hear the defense of false doctrine and
to join in the services of a false religion;

(b) in the neutral schools of an anti-religious spirit the danger is
the same, for the pupils must attend courses in which the
interpretations given to history, science, philosophy, letters, etc.,
are unfriendly to the faith;

(c) in the neutral schools whose spirit is not anti-religious, there is
a danger of Indifferentism that arises from the system itself; for the
very fact that religion is slighted tends to impress the students with
the idea that it is unimportant or unrelated to other matters of life,
and this prepares the way for doubt and scepticism. Moreover, since
example teaches more effectively than the printed or spoken word, the
neglect or contempt of religion by professors and fellow-pupils in
mixed schools is a danger to faith.

869. The lawfulness or unlawfulness of attending or patronizing schools
dangerous to faith must be decided according to the principles given
above on the occasions of sin (see 263 sqq.).

(a) If the danger to faith is voluntary, the use of such schools is not
lawful, for those who are able are bound to seek or provide religious
education both in elementary and higher schooling (see Canon 1373).
Example: In the town of X there are good parochial and Catholic high
schools. Sempronius could easily send his children to these schools,
but he thinks that certain select schools offer greater social and
financial advantages, and so he chooses them. His conduct is not lawful.

(b) If the danger to faith is necessary, the use of such schools is
lawful, provided the needed precautions are duly observed. Example: In
the country district of Y there is no school except the public school,
and therefore Balbus sends his children to that school. His conduct is
lawful, but he must see that his children receive religious instruction
outside of school.

870. The danger to faith is necessary when there is no Catholic school,
or none that is sufficient for the needs of individual students, and
their parents are unable to send them elsewhere. In such a case it is
lawful to attend a school that is neutral, but means must be used to
make the proximate danger remote. Such means are the following: (a)
religious instruction must be taken outside of school, as in special
week-day classes, Sunday school, home study, etc.; (b) special
attention must be given to the strengthening of faith on those points
that are attacked or slighted in the neutral school; (c) parents,
guardians, or others responsible must see that the reading and the
associates of their wards in the neutral schools are good, and that
they are faithful to their religious duties.

871. Is attendance at non-Catholic schools sometimes unlawful, even
when there are serious reasons in its favor?

(a) It is unlawful, if the schools are sectarian, and then no excuse
can justify such attendance; for, in addition to scandal and
cooperation in false worship, there is present a proximate danger to
faith that is not made remote. Parents or guardians who knowingly send
their children to schools for education in a non-Catholic religion are
suspected of heresy and incur excommunication _ipso facto_, reserved to
the Ordinary (see Canon 2319). Example: Titus sends his daughter to a
sectarian academy because it is nearer and cheaper than the Catholic
academy. He claims that she is old enough not to lose her religion,
that opposition will make her faith stronger, etc. Titus' arguments are
fallacious and his conduct gravely sinful.

(b) Attendance at non-Catholic schools is unlawful, if the schools are
neutral in theory, but so dangerous in practice that loss of faith is
practically certain if one attends. Example: Balbus sends his son to an
undenominational university which is regarded as a hotbed of atheism,
and whose students practically to a man lose all religion.

872. Absolution should be denied in some cases to those who send their
children to non-Catholic schools, if they refuse to change.

(a) Absolution should be denied on account of lack of faith in the
parents themselves, if they send their children to non-Catholic schools
on account of their own ideas that are contrary to the teachings of the
Church. Example: Sempronius refuses to send his children to parochial
schools, because he thinks each one should judge about religion for
himself, and not receive it from instructors.

(b) Absolution should be denied on account of the danger caused to the
faith of the children, when the children are sent to sectarian schools,
or when they are sent to neutral schools and sufficient efforts are not
used to counteract the evil influence there felt.

(c) Absolution should be refused on account of scandal or cooperation
in evil, if, while the parents themselves are sound in faith and
prevent all danger of perversion of their children, they send them to
non-Catholic schools without sufficient reason, to the grave
disedification of others, or the great assistance of unchristian

873. Absolution should not be denied in the following cases: (a) when
the parents have a sufficient reason for sending their children to
non-Catholic schools (i.e., a reason approved by the local Ordinary as
sufficient). It belongs only to the Ordinary to decide in what
circumstances and with what precautions attendance at such schools is
allowable (Canon 1374; for application to the United States, see Holy
Office, 24 Nov., 1875; Council of Baltimore, III, n. 199, in regard to
elementary and high schools. As to colleges and universities, see
_S.C.Prop.Fid_., 7 Apr., 1860; _Fontes_, n. 4649, Vol VII, p. 381;
n.4868, Vol. VII, p.405; also S.C.Prop.Fid., 6 Aug., 1867); (b) when
the parents have no sufficient reason, but there is no lack of faith on
their part, no danger of perversion of the children, no grave scandal
or sinful co-operation in evil.

874. The presence of Catholics as teachers in non-Catholic schools is
beneficial, since it lessens to some extent the evil influence of such
schools; but there is also the danger that it may cause scandal or
create the impression that attendance at Catholic schools is not
necessary. Hence, it has been permitted by the Church in certain cases
but only when danger of scandal or wrong impression is absent. (a) The
secular sciences may be taught by laymen in non-Catholic schools of
higher or lower education, if there is no scandal, no unlawful
cooperation, and no immediate danger of perversion. (b) Christian
doctrine may be taught by priests to Catholic students of neutral
schools, either in the school building or elsewhere (as in a church),
and certain priests may be appointed as chaplains for this work (Sacred
Congregation of the Holy Office to Bishops of Switzerland, March 26,

875. Dangerous Marriages.--The following kinds of marriage are
dangerous to the faith of Catholics: (a) marriage with non-Catholics,
unbaptized or bigoted persons (mixed marriages); (b) marriage with
fallen-away Catholics (that is, with those who have given up the
Catholic religion, although they have not joined another), or with
those who belong to societies forbidden by the Church.

876. The danger to faith in the aforesaid kinds of marriage are serious
and proximate, and hence such unions are forbidden by divine law, as
long as the danger is not removed or made remote through the use of
precautions. The dangers are for the Catholic party and the children.

(a) The Catholic party is in serious danger of losing the faith (i.e.,
of joining the religion or sharing the ideas of the other party), or of
doubting the truth of the Church, or of taking refuge in
Indifferentism. For, if domestic life is peaceful, the Catholic may
easily be led in time to regard with favor the other party's religion
or views; if it is not peaceful, the Catholic through fear or annoyance
may make compromises or sacrifices in matters of faith, or else suffer
temptations that could have been avoided.

(b) The children born are in serious danger of being deprived of the
faith (i.e., of not being brought up as Catholics), or of having their
faith weakened by the example of parents who do not agree in the matter
of religion. If the non-Catholic or fallen-away Catholic interferes
with the religion of the children, their baptism, religious education,
attendance at church, etc., will be forbidden or impeded; if that party
does not interfere, there will be at least the example during
impressionable years of one parent who does not accept the Catholic
faith or who disregards its requirements. Statistics indicate that one
of the chief sources of leakage in the Church today is mixed marriages.

877. Dangerous marriages are also forbidden by the law of the Church.
(a) Lack of baptism in the non-Catholic party causes the diriment
impediment of disparity of worship (Canon 1070); (b) membership of the
non-Catholic party in an heretical or schismatical sect causes the
prohibitive impediment of mixed religion (Canon 1060); (c) unworthiness
of one of the parties, on account of notorious apostasy or affiliation
with forbidden societies (see 945 sqq.), prevents the pastor from
assisting at the marriage without permission from the Ordinary (Canon

878. No one may enter into any of the dangerous marriages here
considered, unless the requirements of the natural and ecclesiastical
laws be complied with. (a) The natural law requires under pain of grave
sin that the danger of perversion be removed, that no non-Catholic
ceremony take place, and that the Catholic spouse work prudently for
the conversion of the other party. (b) The ecclesiastical law requires
under grave sin that guarantees be given that the requirements of the
natural law shall be fulfilled (Canons 1061, 1071); that there be grave
and urgent reasons for the marriage (ibid.); that dispensations from
the impediments be obtained, or permission, in the case of unworthiness
of one of the parties, to assist at the marriage be granted by the
Ordinary (Canons 1036, 1065).

879. The canonical consequences of dangerous marriages illegally
contracted are as follows: (a) Those who knowingly contract a mixed
marriage without dispensation are _ipso facto_ excluded from legitimate
ecclesiastical acts, (e.g., the office of godparent), and from the use
of sacramentals, until a dispensation has been obtained from the
Ordinary (Canon 2375). Marriage contracted with the impediment of
disparity of worship is invalid, whether the parties are in ignorance
or not (Canon 1070, Sec.16). (b) Catholics who enter into marriage before
a non-Catholic minister acting in a religious capacity or who contract
marriage with the implicit or explicit understanding that any or all of
the children will be educated outside the Church incur excommunication
_latae sententiae_ reserved to the Ordinary (Canon 2319).

880. The prenuptial guarantees required by church law in case of mixed
or other dangerous marriages are as follows: (a) According to the Code,
no dispensation for mixed marriages will be granted unless the
non-Catholic party gives a guarantee that the danger of perversion for
the Catholic party shall be removed, and both parties promise that all
the children shall be baptized and brought up only in the Catholic
faith. There must be moral certainty that the promises will be kept,
and as a rule they should be demanded in writing (Canons 1061, 1071).
The permission for marriage with fallen-away Catholics is not granted
until the Ordinary has satisfied himself that the danger to the
Catholic and the children has been removed (Canon 1065, Sec.2). (b) The
pre-Code legislation further required that both parties promise that
there would be no non-Catholic ceremony and that the Catholic promise
to work for the conversion of the other party. Canons 1062-1063 speak
of these obligations, but do not exact promises.

881. Remedies against mixed and other dangerous marriages are the
following: (a) Before engagement Catholics should be instructed and
encouraged to marry those of their own faith. Thus, confessors can
discourage company-keeping with non-Catholics, parents can provide
their children with opportunities for meeting suitable Catholics, and,
above all, pastors should frequently speak and preach to old and young
on the evils of mixed marriages. (b) After engagement to a non-Catholic
has been made, the non-Catholic should be persuaded to accept the
Catholic religion, if he or she can do this with sincerity; otherwise,
the Catholic should be warned of the danger of the marriage, and the
pastor should refuse to seek a dispensation unless there is a really
serious cause (see Canon 1064; II Plenary Council of Baltimore, n. 336;
III Plenary Council of Baltimore, n. 133).

882. Dangerous Communication.--Mixed marriages are mentioned specially
among the communications with non-Catholic that are dangerous to faith,
because marriage is a lifelong and intimate association. But there are
other communications with unbelievers that can easily corrupt faith,
the less dangerous being communication in matters that are not
religious, and the more dangerous being communication in religious
matters. (a) Non-religious or civil communication is association with
non-Catholics in secular affairs, such as business, social life,
education, politics. (b) Religious communication is association with
non-Catholics in sacred services or divine worship.

883. Non-religious communication is sinful as follows: (a) It is sinful
according to natural law, when in a particular case it would be a
proximate danger of perversion freely chosen, or an involuntary danger
against which one does not employ sufficient precaution. Examples:
Titus chooses infidels and freethinkers for his friends and intimates,
understanding their character and bad influence. Balba on account of
her poverty is obliged to work in a place where all her companions are
unbelievers who scoff at religion and try in every way to win her over
to their errors; yet she is not concerned to arm herself more strongly
in faith.

(b) According to ecclesiastical law, civil communication is forbidden
with those who have been excommunicated as persons to be avoided (Canon
2267). Such persons are those who lay violent hands on the Roman
Pontiff (Canon 2343), or who have been excommunicated by individual
name and as persons to be avoided through public decree or sentence of
the Apostolic See (Canon 2258). Exception is made, however, for husband
and wife, children, servants, subjects, and for others in case of

884. Religious communication is sinful on account of danger in the
following cases:

(a) If it is a proximate and voluntary occasion of sin against faith.
Examples: Sempronius goes to a non-Catholic church to hear a minister
who attacks the divinity of Christ and other articles of the Creed. The
purpose of Sempronius is to benefit himself as a public speaker, but he
knows that his faith suffers, because he admires the orator. Balbus
chooses to listen over the radio to attacks on religion and
Christianity, which cause serious temptations to him.

(b) If it is a necessary occasion of sin and one does not employ
sufficient precautions against it, religious communication becomes
sinful. Example: Titus, a prisoner, has to listen at times to a jail
chaplain, who teaches that there are errors in the Bible, that man
evolved from the ape, etc. Titus feels himself drawn sympathetically to
these teachings, but makes no effort to strengthen his faith.

885. Communication with unbelievers that is a remote occasion of sin,
is not sinful, for "otherwise one must needs go out of this world" (I
Cor., v. 9). On the contrary, reasons of justice or charity frequently
make it necessary and commendable to have friendly dealings with those
of other or no religious conviction. (a) Reasons of justice. It is
necessary to cooperate with non-Catholic fellow-citizens in what
pertains to the welfare of our common country, state, city, and
neighborhood; to be just and fair in business relations with those
outside the Church, etc. (b) Reasons of charity. Catholics should be
courteous and kind to all (Heb., xii. 14), and be willing to assist,
temporarily and spiritually, those outside the Church. Thus, St. Paul,
without sacrificing principle or doctrine, made himself all things to
all men, in order to gain all (I Cor., ix. 19). Indeed, the mission of
the Church would suffer, if Catholics today kept aloof from all that
goes on about them. The Church must teach, by example as well as
precept, must be a salt, a light, a leaven, an example of the Gospel in
practice; and surely this ministry will be weakened if her children aim
at complete isolation and exclusivism.

886. Societies that are purely civil or profane--e.g., social clubs,
charitable organizations, temperance societies, labor unions, that are
not identified with any church and are neutral in religion--may be
dangerous to faith. (a) There may be danger on account of the
membership, even when the nature of the society is purely indifferent
or good. Example: It would be dangerous to faith to join a convivial
society whose members were mostly aggressive infidels, even though the
purpose of the organization was only recreation. (b) There may be
danger to faith on account of certain methods or principles of the
society. Example: A Boys' or Girls' Club whose purpose is to train
young people for good citizenship is dangerous to faith, if it acts as
though the natural virtues were sufficient, or as though moral
education belonged to itself exclusively or principally.

887. The Sin of Blasphemy.--So far we have spoken of the sins of
unbelief that are contrary to the internal act of faith. We now come to
the sins that are contrary to the external act, or profession of faith.
These sins are of two kinds: (a) The less serious sin is that of
ordinary denial of the faith, that is, the assertion that some article
of faith is false, or that some contrary error is true. This sin will
be treated below in 913 sqq. on the commandments of faith. (b) The more
serious sin is blasphemy, that is, the denial to God of something that
is His; or the ascription to God of what does not belong to Him. Of
this sin we shall speak now.

888. Blasphemy etymologically is from the Greek, and signifies damage
done to reputation or character; theologically, it is applied only to
insults or calumnies offered to God, and is threefold according to the
three stages of sin described above (see 168). (a) Blasphemy of the
heart is internal, committed only in thought and will. So "the wicked
man said in his heart: There is no God" (Ps. xviii. 1), and the demons
and lost souls blasphemed God without words (Apoc., xvi. 9). (b)
Blasphemy of the mouth is external, committed in spoken words, or in
their written or printed representations. (c) Blasphemy of deeds is
also external, committed by acts or gestures. The action of Julian the
Apostate in casting his blood towards heaven was intended as a sign of
contempt for Christ.

889. Internal blasphemy does not differ from unbelief or disrespect for
God. We are concerned here, therefore, only with external blasphemy,
which is contrary to the external profession of faith. External
blasphemy is opposed to faith either directly (by denying what is of
faith) or indirectly (by showing disrespect to what is of faith), and
hence it is either heretical or non-heretical.

(a) Heretical blasphemy affirms about God something false, or denies
about Him something true. The false affirmation is made directly, when
some created imperfection is attributed to God, or indirectly, when
some divine perfection is attributed to a creature. Example: It is
heretical blasphemy to affirm that God is a tyrant or the cause of sin,
or that man is able to overcome God. It is also heretical blasphemy to
deny that God is able to perform miracles, that His testimony is true,

(b) Non-heretical blasphemy affirms or denies something about God
according to truth, but in a mocking or blaming way. This sin is
opposed, therefore, to reverence rather than to faith, and will be
treated later among the sins against the virtue of religion (see Vol.
II). Example: A person in anger at God says scornfully: "God is good!"

890. The nature of heretical blasphemy will better appear, if we
compare it with other kinds of speech disrespectful to God.

(a) It differs from maledictions or curses, (e.g., "May God destroy
you!"), because the one directly offended in blasphemy is God Himself,
while in a curse it is some creature of God.

(b) It differs from non-heretical blasphemy, from perjury and disregard
of vow, from vain use of the name of God, because none of these
necessarily proceeds from a lack of faith, as does heretical blasphemy.
Non-heretical blasphemy proceeds from hatred or contempt of God,
perjury from presumption, disregard of vow from disobedience, vain use
of the Divine Name from irreverence.

(c) Heretical blasphemy differs from temptation of God (e.g., "God must
help me now if He can," said by one who exposes himself rashly to
danger), for, while temptation of God implies doubt, it is directly an
act of irreverence by which one presumes to put God Himself to proof,
whereas heretical blasphemy is directly an act of denial of truth.

891. Heretical blasphemy calumniates God, either in His own attributes
and perfections, or in those created persons or things that are
specially His by reason of friendship or consecration. Thus, we have:
(a) blasphemy that attacks the Divine Being Himself, as was explained
above; (b) blasphemy that attacks what is especially dear to God, which
consists in remarks or acts derogatory to the Blessed Virgin, the
Saints, the Sacraments, the crucifix, the Bible, etc.

892. Unlike God, creatures are subject to imperfections, moral or
physical, and thus it is not always erroneous or blasphemous to
attribute imperfections to the Saints or sacred things.

(a) If sacred persons or things are spoken ill of precisely on account
of their relation to God, or in such a way that the evil said of them
reverts on God Himself, blasphemy is committed. Example: It is
blasphemous to say that the Mother of God was not a Virgin, that St.
Peter was a reprobate, that St. Anthony and St. Simeon Stylites were
snobbish or eccentric, that the Sacraments are nonsense, that relics
are an imposture, etc.

(b) If sacred persons or things are criticized precisely on account of
their human or finite imperfections, real or alleged, the sin of
irreverence is committed, when the criticism is prompted by malice or
levity. No sin at all is committed, if one is stating facts with due
respect for the character of the persons or things spoken of. Examples:
To call a Doctor of the Church an ignoramus out of anger at a
theological opinion defended by him, would be of itself a serious sin
of disrespect. To speak of a Saint as a dirty tramp or idle visionary,
if the intention is to insult, is also a serious sin of disrespect.
But, if one were to say in joke that St. Peter was a baldhead, St.
Charles Borromeo a big nose, the sin of irreverence would be only
slight. No sin would be committed, if one, describing a religious
painting from the artistic standpoint, called it an abomination.

893. Heretical blasphemy is expressed not only by sentences that are
complete and in the indicative mood, but also by phrases or
interjections, by wishes, commands, or even signs.

(a) Blasphemy is expressed optatively, imperatively, or
interrogatively. Examples: "Away with God!" is equivalent to the
assertion that God is not eternal. "Come down from the cross, if Thou
be the Son of God" (Matt., xxvii. 40), is equivalent to the statement
that Christ is not the Son of God. The question put to the Psalmist,
"Where is thy God?" (Ps. xli. 4.), meant in the mouth of the Psalmist's
enemies that Jehovah did not exist, or was powerless.

(b) Blasphemy is expressed even by short words, or by a grunt or snort
of contempt. Example: To utter the name of our Lord in a contumelious
way signifies that one regards Him as of no account. The word
"hocus-pocus" is sometimes used in derision of the Mass or other sacred

(c) Blasphemy is expressed by acts that signify disbelief and dishonor,
for example, to spit or shake one's fist at heaven, to turn up the nose
or make a wry face at the mention of God, to trample in the dust a
crucifix, etc.

894. Rules for Interpreting Cases of Doubtful Blasphemy.--(a) Custom or
usage is a better guide than etymology or grammar in discovering
whether a blasphemous meaning is contained in certain common
expressions of an ambiguous character. Examples: According to
signification the phrase, "Sacred Name of God," is harmless and might
be a pious ejaculation, but according to the sense in which it is taken
in French it curses God and is blasphemous. According to signification,
the expression "Ye gods" in English, "Thousand names of God" in French,
"Thousand Sacraments" in German, are blasphemous; but according to the
sense in which they are used by the people they merely express
surprise, and are at most a venial sin of irreverence. The English
language as a whole is singularly free from blasphemous expressions,
just as English classic literature as a whole is singularly free from

(b) The dispositions or feelings of the user are a better index of the
presence or absence of blasphemy than the mere words, if the latter are
capable of various senses. If doubt persists about the sense of an
ambiguous expression that could be blasphemous, it may be held that no
blasphemy was intended. Examples: Titus, a good man, is so annoyed
trying to correct his children that he exclaims: "Why did the Lord ever
send me such pests?" Balbus, who is a hater of religion, answers him:
"Who is to blame if they are pests?" Since Titus is habitually
religious and Balbus habitually irreligious, the question of the former
sounds like irritation, the question of the latter like blasphemy.
Claudius is a very religious-minded man, but he meets with a series of
calamities which so stun him that he exclaims: "I must be only a
step-child of God. Certainly, He cares little for me. Why did He ever
create me?" The sentiment seems to be one of grief and wonder rather
than of insult to God. Balbus is very devoted to his mother, and often
addresses her in hyperbolic language, saying that he adores her, that
she is the goddess at Whose shrine he worships, his supreme beatitude,
etc. Taken literally, these expressions are blasphemous, but as used by
Balbus they are harmless.

895. The Sinfulness of Blasphemy.--(a) From its very nature (i.e., from
the importance of the rights it attacks and the goods it injures),
blasphemy is a mortal sin, since it outrages the Majesty of God, and
destroys the virtues of religion, love of God, and frequently faith
itself. In the Old Testament it was punished with death (Lev., xxiv. 15
sqq.), and Canon 2323 of the Code prescribes that blasphemy be punished
as the Ordinary shall decide. It is also a crime at common law and
generally by statute, as tending to a breach of the peace and being a
public nuisance or destructive of the foundations of civil society;
when printed, it is a libel.

(b) Unbelief is the greatest of sins after hatred of God (see 820). But
blasphemy is the greatest of the sins against faith, since to inner
unbelief it adds external denial and insult.

(c) Blasphemy cannot become a venial sin on account of the smallness of
the matter involved, for even slight slander or scorn becomes great
when its object is God Himself. Example: It is blasphemous to say that
our Lord was not above small or venial imperfections, or to show
contempt for even one of the least of the Saints as such.

(d) Blasphemy cannot become a venial sin on account of unpremeditation,
if at the time it is committed one is aware of its character, just as
murder does not become a venial sin, because one killed another in a
sudden fit of anger. Example: Sempronius has the habit when driving his
refractory mules of shouting at them: "You creatures of the devil!" A
priest on hearing this admonishes Sempronius that the expression is
blasphemous. But Sempronius continues to use it whenever the mules
irritate him, making no effort to improve.

896. There are some cases in which blasphemy is only a venial sin or no
sin on account of the lack of deliberation.

(a) If there is no advertence or only semi-advertence to the act
itself, the blasphemy pronounced, unless it be voluntary in its cause
(see 102, 196), is not a mortal sin. In the former case, there is no
sin at all, for the act is not human (see 33); in the latter case there
cannot be mortal sin, for there is no full reflection on the deed (see
175). Example: Balbus now and then catches himself humming blasphemous
songs that he heard years ago, but he always stops as soon as he thinks
of what he is saying. Titus, coming out of the ether after an
operation, makes a few blasphemous remarks, but he is so dazed that he
hardly knows who is speaking. Sempronius makes himself drunk,
foreseeing that he will blaspheme while out of his senses. Balbus
commits no sin, Titus may be guilty of venial sin, but Sempronius is
guilty of mortal sin in blaspheming.

(b) If there is no advertence or only semi-advertence to the malice of
the act, the blasphemy pronounced, if it is not voluntary in its cause,
is not a mortal sin; for one is not responsible for more than one knows
or should know (see 99-100, on imputability). Examples: Titus, a
foreigner, has been taught to repeat certain blasphemous phrases, whose
real meaning he does not suspect. Balbus has the habit when angry of
blaspheming at his mules, but he is doing his best to use more suitable
language. Sempronius unawares gets into a tipsy condition in which he
realizes his acts, but is confused about moral distinctions, and hence
uses blasphemous expressions which he would abhor if he were in his
normal state. Caius, a boy, blasphemes, thinking that he is committing
only a venial sin of "cussing."

897. Different kinds of blasphemy must be noted with reference to the
duty of confession.

[a] There are three distinct species of blasphemy--non-heretical, which
is opposed to the virtue of religion; heretical, which is opposed to
religion and faith; diabolical, which is opposed to religion, faith and
the precept to love God. These species should be distinguished in
confession. Examples: Titus, angered because his Patron Saint did not
obtain a favor for him, ironically turns the Saint's picture to the
wall, saying: "You have great influence with God!" (non-heretical
blasphemy). Balbus in similar circumstances said: "I have lost all
faith in Saints" (heretical blasphemy). Sempronia, Whose child has just
died, rebels against God and calls Him a cruel monster (diabolical

(b) Circumstances may aggravate the malice of blasphemy. Blasphemy that
is directly against God Himself is worse than blasphemy against the
Saints; blasphemy against the Blessed Virgin is worse than blasphemy
against other friends of God; blasphemy that ascribes evil to God is
greater than blasphemy that denies Him some perfection; blasphemy that
excuses itself or boasts is worse than blasphemy that is more
concealed; blasphemy that expressly intends to dishonor God is graver
than blasphemy that only implicitly intends this. Some authors require
that aggravating circumstances be mentioned in confession, but others
say this is not necessary (see Vol. II).

898. According to the causes from which they proceed (see 250),
blasphemies are divided into three kinds: (a) blasphemy against the
Father, which is contumely spoken against God out of passion or
weakness, as when one being annoyed uses what he knows to be blasphemy;
(b) blasphemy against the Son, which is contumely against God spoken
out of ignorance. Thus, St. Paul said of himself that he had been a
blasphemer, and a persecutor, and contumelious, but that he obtained
mercy, because he did it ignorantly in unbelief (I Tim., i. 12, 13);
(c) blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which is contumely against God
spoken out of sheer malice. Such was the sin of the Jews, who
attributed the divine works of Christ to the prince of demons (Matt,
xii. 31).

899. To the Holy Ghost are appropriated the supernatural gifts of God
that prevent or remove sin; and, as these can be reduced to six, there
are also six sins against the Holy Ghost (i.e., six kinds of
contemptuous disregard of spiritual life). The expression of this inner
contempt is a blasphemy.

(a) Man is kept from sin by the hope mingled with fear which the
thought of God, as both merciful and just, excites in him. Hence,
despair and presumption which remove these divine preventives of sin
are blasphemies against the Holy Ghost.

(b) Man is kept from sin, next, by the light God gives him to know the
truth and by the grace He diffuses that all may perform good. Hence,
resistance to the known truth and displeasure at the progress of God's
kingdom are also sins against the Spirit of truth and holiness.

(c) Man is kept from sin by the shamefulness of sin itself and the
nothingness of the passing satisfaction it affords; for the former
inclines him to be ashamed of sin committed, or to repent, while the
latter tends to make him tire of sin and give it up. Hence, the resolve
not to grieve over sin and obstinate adherence to such a resolve are
also sins against the Holy Ghost.

900. There is no sin which, if repented of, cannot be forgiven in this
life. How then does our Lord say that the blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to
come (Matt., xii. 31)?

(a) The sins against the Holy Ghost are unpardonable according to their
nature, just as some diseases are incurable according to their nature,
because not only do they set up an evil condition, but they also remove
or resist those things that could lead to betterment. Thus, if one
despairs, or presumes, or resists truth or good, or determines not to
abandon error or evil, one shuts out the remedy of repentance, which is
necessary for pardon; whereas, if one sins through passion or
ignorance, faith and hope remain and help one to repentance.

(b) The sins against the Holy Ghost are not unpardonable, if we
consider the omnipotence of God. Just as God can cure miraculously a
disease that is humanly incurable, so can He pardon a sin which,
according to its nature, is unpardonable; for He is able to bring hope
and repentance to those who were in despair, for example. Hence, we
repeat, there is no sin which, if repented of, cannot be forgiven in
this life.

901. Does one arrive at the state of malicious sin or blasphemy
suddenly or gradually? (a) Malice in sin (i.e., the willing choice of
evil by one who is not weakened by ignorance or passion) is sometimes
due to a disorder in the will itself which has a strong inclination
towards wrong, as when long-continued habit has made sin attractive. It
is clear that in such cases one does not arrive at blasphemy suddenly,
Example: Titus blasphemes with readiness and without remorse. This
argues that he is an adept and not a beginner, for readiness and strong
attachment are signs of practice. (b) Malice in sin is sometimes due to
the fact that the will has lost certain protections against sin, and
hence chooses sin readily and gladly, as happens when a sin against the
Holy Ghost has been committed. Generally, the contempt of God's gifts
contained in sins against the Holy Ghost does not come suddenly, but
follows as the climax of a progressive deterioration (Prov., xviii. 3);
but, since man is free and sin very alluring, it is not impossible that
one should suddenly become a blasphemer, especially if one had not been
careful before in other matters. It is next to impossible, however,
that a religious-minded man should all at once become a blasphemer or
malicious sinner.

902. Remedies Against Blasphemy.--(a) Those who blaspheme maliciously
should be admonished of the enormity of their sin, as well as the
absurdity of defying the Almighty (Ps. ii. 1, 4). Prayers and
ejaculations in praise of God are a suitable penance for them. (b)
Those who blaspheme through habit or out of sudden anger or passion
should be told that at least they cause great scandal, and make
themselves ridiculous. A good practice for overcoming habit or sudden
outbursts is that some mortification or almsdeed or litany should be
performed each time blasphemy is uttered.

903. Absolution of Blasphemers.--(a) If blasphemy is not heretical, no
censure or reservation is incurred under the general law, and every
confessor may absolve; (b) if blasphemy is heretical, excommunication
is incurred under the conditions given above in 834, and absolution may
be granted as explained there.

904. Sins of Ignorance, Blindness, Dullness.--After the sins against
faith itself come the sins against the Gifts of the Holy Ghost that
serve faith (see 808): (a) against the Gift of Knowledge is the sin of
ignorance; (b) against the Gift of Understanding are the sins of
blindness of heart and dullness of understanding.

905. Ignorance (as explained in 28 and 249) is a cause of sin--of
material sin, if the ignorance is antecedent, of formal sin, if the
ignorance is consequent. But ignorance is also a sin itself, in the
sense now to be explained.

(a) Ignorance may be considered in itself (i.e., precisely as it is the
absence of knowledge), and in this sense it is not called a sin, since
under this aspect it is not opposed to moral virtue, but to knowledge,
the perfection of the intellect.

(b) Ignorance may be considered in relation to the will (i.e.,
precisely as it is a voluntary defect), and in this sense it is a sin,
since under this aspect it is opposed to the moral virtue of studiosity
(i.e., the part of temperance which moderates the desire of learning
and keeps the golden mean between curiosity and negligence). This sin
of ignorance pertains to neglect, and is twofold; it is called affected
ignorance, if the will is strongly desirous of the lack of due
knowledge, and is called careless ignorance, if the will is remiss in
desiring due knowledge. Affected ignorance is a sin of commission,
careless ignorance a sin of omission.

(c) Ignorance may be considered in relation to obligatory acts (i.e.,
precisely as it makes one voluntarily incapable of fulfilling one's
duties), and in this sense it partakes of various kinds of sinfulness,
inasmuch as he who is voluntarily ignorant of his duty is responsible
for the mistakes he will make. Thus, he who is sinfully ignorant in
matters of faith, will fail against the precepts of that virtue; he who
does not know what his state of life as judge, lawyer, physician, etc.,
requires, will fail against justice; he who does not know what charity
demands of him, will sin against charity.

906. The malice of the sin of ignorance in matters of faith is as
follows: (a) Vincible ignorance of the truths one is obliged to know,
whether the obligation be of means or of precept (see 360, 786 sqq.),
is a grave sin, for faith in these truths is commanded under pain of
losing salvation (Mark, xvi. 15, 16). (b) The sin committed is but one
sin, regardless of length of time, and is incurred at the time one
omits due diligence in acquiring knowledge, as is the case with other
sins of omission. Hence, he who remains in culpable ignorance of
Christian doctrine for a year commits one sin, but the length of time
is an aggravating circumstance.

907. Culpable ignorance regarding truths of faith, as a distinct sin,
is as follows:

(a) It is not distinct from its cause (i.e., negligence), for ignorance
is not a sin at all, except in so far as it proceeds from negligence.
Hence, one would not be obliged to accuse oneself of the sins of
omission in regard to instruction in Christian doctrine and of
ignorance in Christian doctrine, for these are but one sin.

(b) Culpable ignorance is not distinct from its effect (i.e., from a
sin committed on account of the ignorance), if the truth one is
ignorant of has to be known only on account of some passing duty that
must be performed here and now; for in such a case the knowledge is
required, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the duty. Hence,
ignorance of fact or of a particular law is not distinct as a sin from
the sin that results from it. Examples: Titus knows that he should not
take money that belongs to another; but through his own carelessness he
is ignorant of the fact that the money before him belongs to another,
and takes the money. Balbus knows that the precept of the Church on
fasting is obligatory; but through his own negligence he is unaware
that today is a fast day, and does not fast. Titus and Balbus committed
one sin apiece.

(c) Culpable ignorance is distinct from its effect, if the truth one is
ignorant of has to be known for its own sake; for in such a case one
sins against the virtue of studiosity (see 905) by not knowing
something which one should know habitually, and also against some other
virtue by violating its precepts as a result of one's sinful ignorance.
Truths one is obliged to know for their own sake are the mysteries of
faith, the Commandments of the Decalogue, the Precepts of the Church,
and the duties of one's own state. Examples: Sempronius through his own
carelessness does not know the mystery of the Incarnation, and as a
result blasphemes Christ. Titus does not know that stealing is a sin,
and therefore he steals. In both cases two sins are committed, the sin
of ignorance and the sin that resulted from ignorance.

908. Cases in which ignorance in matters of faith is not culpable are
the following: (a) if one has used sufficient diligence to acquire
knowledge, one is not responsible for one's ignorance; (b) if one has
not used sufficient diligence to acquire knowledge, one is not
responsible for one's ignorance, if the lack of diligence is not one's

909. Sufficient diligence is a broad term and has to be understood with
relation to the mental ability of the person and the importance and
difficulty of the truth in question. What is sufficient diligence in an
illiterate person, or with regard to a matter of minor importance,
would be insufficient in a learned person, or in a matter of greater
importance. However, the following general rules can be given:

(a) To be sufficient, diligence need not be as a rule supreme (i.e., it
is not necessary that one employ every possible means to acquire
instruction), for even the most conscientious persons feel they have
used sufficient diligence when they have employed the usual means for
obtaining religious instruction;

(b) To be sufficient, diligence should equal that which is employed by
good people in similar circumstances. Thus, the unlearned who consult
the learned or frequent the instructions provided for them, the learned
who devote themselves to study as ordered and who seek assistance in
doubts, are sufficiently diligent.

910. One who has not used sufficient diligence is sometimes
responsible, sometimes not responsible.

(a) A person is not responsible for his ignorance and lack of
sufficient diligence, if he conscientiously desires to have the proper
amount of instruction, and has not even a suspicion that his studies
and knowledge are not sufficient. Example: Titus, having gone through a
very small catechism, thought that he understood Christian doctrine
sufficiently and had done all that was required. But some years later
he discovered, when examined, that he was ignorant of many important
matters, and had entirely misunderstood others.

(b) A person is responsible for his lack of diligence and knowledge, if
at heart he does not care to know, even though no fears or doubts about
his ignorance disturb him. Examples: Balbus always felt religion a
bore. At Sunday school he was daydreaming; now during sermons on Sunday
he falls asleep. The result is that he has many infidel ideas, but
doesn't know it, and is not much concerned. Caius secured for himself
an office, for which he is unfitted on account of his ignorance. But he
enjoys his position so much, and cares so little about its
responsibilities, that he does not even dream of his incompetence, and
would not try to change things if he did.

911. Similar to negligence about the truths of faith itself is
negligence about truths connected with faith. (a) An unbeliever is
guilty of negligence when against conscience he fails to pray for light
and to inquire or inform himself about the credentials of religion,
revelation, and the Church; (b) a believer is guilty of negligence if
he fails to seek answers to objections against faith, when thrown much
in the company of objectors.

912. Like to sins of ignorance are the two sins opposed to the Gift of
Understanding. (a) Dullness of understanding is a weakness of mind as
regards spiritual things which makes it very difficult for one to
consider or understand them. It is sinful inasmuch as it arises from
over-affection for carnal things, especially the delights of eating and
drinking. (b) Blindness of mind is a complete lack of knowledge of
divine things due to the fact that one refuses to consider them lest
one feel obligated to do good, or to the fact that one is so wedded to
passion that one gives it all one's attention (Ps. xxv. 4). Blindness
is sometimes a punishment (Is., vi. 10; Wis., ii. 21); it is a sin when
it is voluntary--that is, when carnal delights, especially lust, make
one disgusted or negligent as to the things of faith. Abstinence and
chastity are two means that greatly aid spiritual understanding, as is
seen in the example of Daniel and his companions (Dan. i. 17).


(_Summa Theologica_, II-II, q. 16.)

913. Unlike the commandments of justice, which are summed up in the
Decalogue, the commandments of faith are not given in any one place of
scripture; but they may be reduced to three: (a) one must acquire
knowledge and understanding of one's faith according to one's state in
life and duties; (b) one must believe internally the truths of faith;
(c) one must profess externally one's belief.

914. The Commandment of Knowledge.--The first of the foregoing
commandments includes three things. (a) The doctrines of faith must be
taught and must be listened to--"These words thou shalt tell to thy
children" (Deut., vi. 6), "Teach ye all nations" (Matt, xxviii. 19),
"He that heareth you heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth
Me" (Luke, x. 16). (b) One must apply oneself to understand what one
hears--"Thou shalt meditate on these words, sitting in thy house, and
walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising" (Deut., vi. 7), "Meditate
upon these things, be wholly in these things. Take heed to thyself and
doctrine" (I Tim., iv, 15, 16). (c) One must retain what one has
learned--"Thou shalt bind the words of the law as a sign on thy hand,
and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes. And thou shalt write
them in the entry and on the doors of thy house" (Deut., vi. 8, 9);
"Have in mind in what manner thou hast received and heard" (Apoc., iii.

915. The means of communicating a knowledge of the faith to unbelievers
are as follows:

(a) The remote means is to get a hearing from those who have not the
true faith, and this supposes that one secure their good will through
edifying example and charity towards them: "Be without offense to the
Jews and the Gentiles, and to the church of God; as I also in all
things please all men, not seeking that which is profitable to myself,
but to many that they may be saved" (I Cor., x. 32, 33); "Let us work
good to all men" (Gal., vi. 10).

(b) The proximate means of communicating a knowledge of faith is the
declaration of the faith to non-Catholics who are willing to hear,
through missionaries sent to foreign countries, Catholic literature
given to those who are well-disposed, invitations to Catholic
instructions, public lectures on the faith, the question box at
missions, etc. (see Canons 1350, 1351). cooperation with Catholic
schools and publications, foreign and home missions, etc., makes one a
sharer in the work of the apostles who are bearing the burden of the

916. The means appointed by the Church for communicating the doctrines
of faith to Catholics are as follows:

(a) For the Laity.--From childhood religious and moral training should
have the first place in education, and should not be confined to
elementary schools, but continued in secondary and higher schools
(Canons 1372, 1373). Pastors are obliged to give catechetical
instructions, and parents must see that their children attend them
(Canons 1329-1336).

(b) For the Clergy.--Aspirants to the priesthood must follow the
courses prescribed for preparatory and higher seminaries or houses of
studies (Canons 1352-1371, 587-592), and no one is admitted to Orders
who has not passed canonical examinations (Canons 996, 997, 389, Sec.2).
The faculties for hearing confessions and preaching also presuppose
examinations (Canons 1340, 877), and no one is to be promoted to
ecclesiastical offices, such as that of parish priest, unless he is
judged competent in knowledge (Canons 459, 149). The clergy are
encouraged to take university studies and degrees (Canons 1380, 1378).

917. A person applies himself sufficiently to the understanding of the
teaching of faith when he takes care that, both extensively or in
quantity and intensively or in quality, his knowledge is all that is
required of him.

(a) Extensively, the knowledge should be such as to include at least
all those truths that have to be known, because explicit faith in them
is necessary; (b) intensively, the knowledge should be more or less
perfect according to the greater or less intelligence, rank or
responsibility of the person.

918. The truths that have to be known by all capable of the knowledge
are as follows:

(a) All must know, from the necessity of the case (necessity of means),
that they have a supernatural destiny and that Christ is the Way that
leads to it; for one cannot tend to a destination, if one is unaware of
its existence and of the road that will bring one there. Hence, all
must know the four basic truths: God our Last End, the Trinity, the
Incarnation, God the Remunerator (see 787).

(b) All must know, from the will of Christ (necessity of precept), the
other truths to which He wishes them expressly to assent, and the
duties, general or particular, that He wishes them to fulfill (Mark,
xvi. 16); that is, they must know the doctrine contained in the Creed,
the commandments and ordinances of Christ concerning the Sacraments and
prayer, and the special obligations of each one's particular state or

919. As to the degree of knowledge that one must possess intensively
(i.e., as to its quality and perfection), it is clear that knowledge
ought to be more perfect in those who are more intelligent or whose
duties call for a more excellent learning.

(a) Knowledge of the truths that should be known by all the faithful
ought to be of a more developed kind in those whose minds are more
mature. A scientific and theological understanding of religion is not
required in any lay person; nor should we expect the same knowledge in
a child as in an adult, or in a subnormal person as in one who is
normal mentally. Examples: No religious instruction is necessary for an
idiot (i.e., a grown-up person who has the mind of a two-year-old
child), for such a one cannot reason. A child of seven or an imbecile
(i.e., a grown-up person whose mentality is on a par with that of a
child of seven) may be received to Communion, after such a child or
imbecile has learned in a simple way that the God-Man is received in
the Eucharist and that it is not common food. A child who is between
ten and twelve and a moron (i.e., a grown-up who is not mentally such a
child's superior) should receive more instruction than an imbecile.

(b) Knowledge of sacred doctrine naturally should be greater in priests
than in the laity; for in religious things priests are the teachers,
the people their pupils (Mal., ii. 7). A mediocre knowledge of theology
in a priest is not sufficient, especially in these days when the laity
are educated, when theological questions are debated on all sides, and
when so many outside the Church as well as in it are looking for help
and light. A profound knowledge of abstruse questions, however, is not
demanded of all priests in an equal degree: more is expected of a
bishop than of his parish priests, more of a parish priest than of one
who has not the care of souls or office of teaching, more of one who
has to speak to or write for the better educated than of one who has to
do these things for those who are less educated, etc. Knowledge should
include not only learning, but also prudence (i.e., good judgment and
practical ability to use learning well), for a priest learns, not for
his own sake alone, but also for the benefit of others.

920. Scientific or complete knowledge is not required of those who are
not theologians, as was said about the four basic truths (see 790). It
suffices for lay persons that they know in a simple way, according to
their age and capacity, the substance of the truths they must believe.
Thus, they should know:

(a) The Creed.--One should know about God, that He is but one and that
there are three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; that God is
the maker of the world, and that He will reward everyone according to
his deeds. One should know about Christ, that He is the Son of God and
God Himself; that He was miraculously born of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
that He suffered and died for our salvation; that He rose from the dead
and by His own power ascended into glory and will come again after the
general resurrection to judge all. One should know about the Church,
that it is the one true Church founded by Christ, in which are found
the communication of spiritual goods and the forgiveness of sins.

(b) The Decalogue.--One should know the general meaning of the
Commandments so as to be able to regulate one's own conduct by them. It
is not necessary that a child should know all the kinds of crimes and
vices that are forbidden by the Commandments. In fact, it is better for
such not to know much about evil. Nor is it required that a layman
should know how to make correct applications of the Commandments to
complicated situations that require much previous study.

(c) The Virtues.--One should know enough to be able to apply to one's
own life, for ordinary cases, what a virtuous life demands. It is not
necessary that a child should know the requirements of prudence as well
as an experienced person, or that a layman should be able to settle
doubts of conscience as well as a priest. But each should know enough
to fulfill what is required of one of his age and condition. Both old
and young should know in substance the acts of faith, hope, charity and
contrition; for to these all are bound. The young should know the laws
of the Church that apply to them (e.g., the law of abstinence); the
older people should understand the law of fasting which they are bound
to observe, etc.

(d) The Sacraments.--One should know substantially the doctrine of the
Sacraments that are necessary for all, namely, Baptism, Penance and the
Eucharist. Since all the faithful have the duty of baptizing in case of
necessity, all should know how to administer lay Baptism properly and
fruitfully. When the time comes for receiving a Sacrament, the
recipient should know enough to receive it validly, licitly, and
devoutly, although less knowledge is required in children and in the
dying who cannot be fully instructed (see Canons 752, 854, 1330, 1331,

(e) Special Duties.--One should know the essentials of one's condition
or state of life and the right way to perform its ordinary duties.
Children should understand the obligations of pupils and of subjects;
the married, religious and priests should know the duties of their
respective states; citizens, the loyalty owed to the community;
officials, judges, lawyers, physicians, teachers, etc., the
responsibilities to the public which their own professions imply.

(f) The Lord's Prayer.--The substance of this form of prayer should be
known by all, namely, that God is to be glorified, and that we should
ask of Him with confidence goods of soul and body and deliverance from
evil. Though Christ is the only necessary Mediator (I Tim., ii. 5), it
is most suitable that all should know substantially the Hail Mary,
namely, that we should ask the intercession of her who is the Mother of
God and our Mother (John, xix, 27).

921. Is a person guilty of sin who does not know what to do in some
manner that pertains to his state of life? (a) If he is blamably
ignorant of the nature of a state he has undertaken or of the ordinary
duties that it imposes, he is guilty of sin; for he is, in a sense,
unjust to himself by obligating himself to what he does not understand,
and to others by promising what he cannot fulfill. Examples: A young
person who marries without understanding the meaning of the contract,
or becomes a religious without knowing the meaning of the vows, would
be ignorant of the nature of the state embraced. A priest occupied in
the ministry, who does not know how to administer the Sacraments
validly, how to explain the Gospels correctly, how to judge usual cases
in confession rightly, etc., would be ignorant of the ordinary duties
of his office. A ruler who habitually acts beyond his authority, a
lawyer who regularly gives wrong advice, and a teacher who makes
mistakes in the elements of his specialty, would also be ignorant of
their ordinary duties.

(b) If a person understands the nature of his state and his everyday
duties, but is ignorant of recondite points or extraordinary cases, he
is not guilty; otherwise, no one could undertake with a safe conscience
the office of pastor, physician, judge, etc.; for, even when a person
has devoted a lifetime to a calling, he has to admit that he finds
difficulties or problems that he cannot solve offhand. Example: Father
Titus gave an incorrect solution about a case of restitution, because
he had to express an opinion at once, and there were so many angles and
circumstances that some of them were overlooked.

922. The means appointed by the Church for the retention of knowledge
in matters of faith are:

(a) For the Laity.--The course of Christian doctrine should not be
discontinued with the parochial school or Sunday school, but should be
continued in the higher schools (Canon 1373). Moreover, for adults
catechetical instruction is given on Sundays and feast days (Canon
1332), and the people are exhorted to attend sermons on matters of
faith and morals that are preached at parochial Masses (Canons

(b) For the Clergy.--The clergy are admonished not to give up study
after ordination (Canon 129), and the law requires that the junior
clergy should take examinations annually during the first three or five
years after ordination to the priesthood (Canons 130, 590), and that
all the clergy should take part in theological conferences several
times a year (Canon 131).

923. What has been learned by heart is more easily retained in the
memory, and hence the common practice of committing the Catechism to
memory is to be recommended. Some believe that it is obligatory to
memorize the Creed and other points mentioned above (see 920); but this
is unlikely, since even the form of the Decalogue and of the Lord's
Prayer is not identical in different parts of scripture. In the early
centuries the catechumens were obliged to learn the Creed and the
Lord's Prayer by heart before Baptism, but there is no general law that
requires this at the present time.

(a) According to positive law, one is not obliged to memorize the words
and order of the Creed and other formulas, and it may be considered an
indication that a person has retained sufficiently what was learned, if
he is able to reply correctly to questions put to him (e.g., to explain
the first article of the Creed by stating the direct and simple
signification of its terms, and so on with the rest).

(b) According to natural law, one is obliged to learn by rote ithe
formulas of faith, if this is possible and there is danger of spiritual
detriment when it is not done. There is hardly anyone who cannot by
practice commit to memory the Our Father, the Apostles' Creed, and
short forms of acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition; and, if
none of them is thus known, it is practically certain that the grave
duty of prayer will be neglected. Hence, it seems that there is a
serious obligation of memorizing at least the Our Father. Feebleminded
persons are not obliged to memorize, or even to know, the truths of
faith, if they are incapable.

924. Confessors should examine in religion penitents who show signs of
ignorance (e.g., in the manner of making their confession), and should
grant or deny absolution according to the case.

(a) If the ignorance is about the truths that are necessary as a means
of justification (see 790), the penitents should be dealt with as
explained in 792.

(b) If the ignorance is about the truths that are necessary because
commanded and there is urgent need of absolution (e.g., on account of
mortal sin committed), the penitent may be absolved, if he is truly
contrite and promises to repair his negligence by studying his
religion, attending Sunday school, instructions, etc.

(c) If the ignorance is about the truths necessary because commanded,
and there is no urgent necessity of absolution, the penitents may be
sent away without absolution. Thus, children who have no serious sins
to confess and who do not know how to say the act of contrition or
other prayers, or who cannot answer simple questions of the Catechism,
should be sent away with a blessing and told to study these things and
return when they know them better.

925. The Commandment of Internal Acts of Faith.--The second commandment
of faith mentioned above (see 913) is both negative and affirmative.
(a) As negative, it forbids at any time disbelief or doubt concerning
that which God proposes for faith. This aspect has been treated above
in discussing the sins against faith (see 813 sqq., 840 sqq.). (b) As
affirmative, it commands that one at certain times should give assent
to the truths revealed by God. This aspect of the commandment will be
considered now.

926. The existence of the command that one should elicit a positive act
of assent to divine truth is taught in both Testaments. (a) In the Old
Testament, implicit faith in all scripture was required; for lawgivers,
prophets, and inspired writers spoke as delivering a message from God.
Moreover, explicit faith in God and His Providence was commanded (see
788). (b) In the New Testament, implicit faith in all revealed doctrine
is required, whether delivered in writing or as tradition (II Thess.,
ii. 15). Moreover, there is a command of explicit faith in the Gospel:
"This is His commandment that we should believe in the name of His Son,
Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He hath given commandment unto
us" (I John, iii. 23).

927. This commandment obliges adults under grave sin as to all revealed
truths. (a) The primary truths of revelation, truths of faith and
morals to which all are commanded to give assent (i.e., to believe
explicitly), are so important that those who refuse to believe them
merit condemnation (Mark, xvi. 16). (b) The secondary truths of
revelation--i.e., those that were made known by God, not for their own
sake, but on account of their relation to the primary truths (e.g., the
names of the patriarchs, the size of Saul, the complexion of David and
thousands of similar facts)--need not be known by all, for that is
impossible. But all are seriously obliged to believe that everything
contained in the Word of God is true, and to be ready to give assent
even to the truths that are not known. Hence, the minor truths of
revelation must be believed under pain of grave sin--implicitly, if
they are not known, explicitly, when they become known.

928. The obligation of explicit faith in the primary truths or articles
of faith is not grave with reference to every detail contained in those
truths. (a) Some details, on account of their difficulty, oblige to
explicit faith only under venial sin. Such are (in the Creed) the
descent into Limbo, the procession of the Holy Ghost, the mode of the
Communion of Saints. (b) Other details, on account of less importance,
do not oblige to explicit faith under any sin. Such are the facts that
it was Pilate under whom Christ suffered, that it was the third day
when Christ rose from the dead.

929. An affirmative commandment "obliges at all times, but not for all
times" (see 371). Hence, the question: How often or when must one give
internal assent to the teachings of faith, in order to fulfill the law?
Before answering this question, let us distinguish three kinds of laws
that may oblige one to an act of faith: (a) the divine law expressly
prescribing an act of faith; (b) the divine law prescribing an act of
some other virtue, which presupposes an act of faith; (e) human law
prescribing something that at least presupposes or includes an act of

930. The divine law expressly prescribing an act of faith (about which
we spoke in 925), obliges in the following cases: (a) at the time when
the commandment is first presented to one, and one recognizes its
obligation: "Preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and
is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be condemned"
(Mark, xvi. 16); (b) it also obliges at other times during life; for
"the just man liveth by faith" (Rom, i. 17). The Church has rejected
the Jansenistic teaching that an act of faith once in a lifetime
suffices (see Denzinger-Banwart, nn. 1101, 1167, 1215).

931. The commandment of internal belief is brought before one for the
first time, either of one's whole life or for the first time after loss
of faith, as follows:

(a) It is brought before a person for the first time in his life, when
he first hears the truths of faith, or first realizes his duty of
accepting them. Examples: A Catholic child who has just reached the age
of reason and has been told in Sunday school that he must believe the
Creed and other truths he has been taught; an adult Catholic who hears
for the first time of transubstantiation, or of some other dogma just
defined by the Church; a non-Catholic who has just perceived the truth
of the Catholic Church.

(b) The commandment of internal belief is brought before one for the
first time after loss of faith, as soon as the duty of returning to
belief occurs to the mind.

932. Does this commandment require that, as soon as the obligation of
faith dawns on one, one is obliged without an instant's delay to make a
formal and explicit act of faith?

(a) As regards children, on account of the imperfection of their
understanding, it can easily happen that they do not perceive that the
obligation binds them there and then, or that it binds under sin, and
thus some time may elapse after the use of reason, or after knowledge
of the command of faith, before the omission of the act of belief would
become a sin. Practically every child of Catholic education complies
with the command when, having learned the truths that must be known, he
says devoutly the act of faith, either in his own words or according to
the form given in the Catechism.

(b) As regards adults, while the entrance of converts into the Church
admits of some delay for necessary preparation, the act of faith itself
should not be postponed for an instant, once the necessity of making it
is perceived as certain.

933. As to its frequency or the times when the act of faith should be
renewed, there are various opinions, but in actual life the question
presents no difficulty.

(a) As to theory, the theologians are divided, some holding that the
act of faith should be made at least once a year, others holding for
once a month, still others for all Sundays and holydays. There is no
solid support for any of these opinions, and it seems that the time and
frequency of acts of faith are not determined by divine law.

(b) As to practice, the theologians agree that one who fulfills the
usual religious duties of a Catholic, has also fulfilled the command to
renew the act of faith. Thus, those who attend Mass and receive the
Sacraments, as the law of the Church prescribes, make acts of faith in
doing so, which satisfy the divine law of faith.

934. Those who omit to make an act of faith in time of temptation
against faith, are also guilty of sin, if the omission is through
sinful neglect.

(a) If the act of faith is the only means by which the temptation can
be overcome (a rare contingency, outside the danger of death), one is
of course gravely bound to elicit the act. The sin committed by one who
would neglect the act of faith in such a circumstance is by some
considered as opposed to the negative command, that one do not dissent;
by others as opposed to the affirmative command, that one assent to
faith. Example: Caius is very much tempted to blasphemy, and finds that
the best remedy is an act of faith in the Majesty of God.

(b) If the act of faith would be harmful, as prolonging or intensifying
the temptation (a thing that is not infrequent), it is better to
struggle against the temptation indirectly by turning the attention to
other matters (see 257, 844).

935. Other cases in which one is obliged to make an internal act of
faith are as follows:

(a) By reason of a divine commandment of some virtue other than faith,
it is sometimes necessary to make an act of faith also. Examples: When
a sinner is preparing himself for the state of grace, of which faith is
the prerequisite; when one is tempted against hope, justice, etc., and
needs to call on faith to resist the tempter; when one is near to death
and must make an act of charity in preparing to meet God. In these
cases there are divine precepts of repentance, hope, justice, charity,
and virtually of faith, which is presupposed.

(b) One must at times make an internal act of faith by reason of a
human commandment enjoining some external act or virtue which supposes
faith. Examples: The command to swear on the Bible, or by some mystery
of religion, supposes an act of faith. The commands to receive
Communion at Easter (Canon 859), to make meditation and spiritual
retreats (Canons 125, 126, 595, 1001), to apply the intention of Mass
(Canons 339, Sec. 1, 466, Sec. 1), all include virtually the command of an
act of faith, for the things required (Communion, retreat, Mass) cannot
be rightly performed without such an act.

936. The act of faith is either formal or virtual, according as it is
made in itself, or in the act of another virtue that supposes it.

(a) The act of faith is formal, when one mentally accepts the truths of
revelation on account of divine authority, even though one does not
express the assent in words or according to any set formula. This kind
of act of faith is necessary when one passes from non-belief or
unbelief to belief, for none of the acts prior to faith contains
supernatural assent to revelation. Hence, the commandment of faith
requires in children or in converts from unbelief a formal act.

(b) The act of faith is virtual, when one elicits the act of some other
supernatural virtue without thinking expressly about faith; for faith
is presupposed by all other supernatural virtues, since one cannot
wish what one does not believe. Thus, the acts of hope, charity, and
contrition are virtually acts of faith. It seems that commandments of
other virtues and of the renewal of faith itself do not require that
one make a formal act of faith, although of course this would be the
better thing to do. Thus, to fulfill the Easter precept of yearly
Confession and Communion well, it is not required that one make a
formal act of faith before Confession, since faith is included in the
act of contrition. It is not necessary, then, that the penitent should
say: "I believe in the forgiveness of sins, etc.," for in his purpose
to receive forgiveness he makes a virtual act of faith in the tenth
article of the Creed and in the Sacrament of Penance, as well as in the
other mysteries of faith.

937. Practically, there is no difficulty for confessors about the
violation of the commandment regarding internal acts of faith.

(a) If penitents are instructed and practical Catholics, they have made
at some time a formal act of faith, even though they do not remember
the time, for the act of faith precedes the acts of other virtues they
are exercising. True, this act of faith may not have been made as soon
as the age of reason was attained or the duty of faith perceived, but
invincible ignorance excuses those who were in good faith about the
matter. Regularity in prayer and other duties is an index that the act
of faith is being renewed in such a way as to comply with the
commandment. Hence, there is no necessity of questioning this class of
penitents about the act of faith.

(b) If penitents are very ignorant Catholics (e.g., young children), it
is clear that they have not made an act of faith as they should, for no
one believes what he does not know. They should, therefore, be
instructed that it is their duty to acquire more knowledge, and to make
an act of faith along with their other prayers. Regarding absolution,
see 924.

(c) If penitents are instructed but not practical, the confession that
they have neglected prayer, Mass, and the Sacraments, means that they
have also neglected the command of making acts of faith. It is not
necessary, therefore, that the confessor interrogate or instruct them
about this command, and he may absolve them, if they are resolved to
amend. It is well, however, to recommend daily acts of faith, hope,
charity and contrition to careless Catholics, especially to those who
cannot attend Mass or receive the Sacraments often.

938. The Commandment of External Profession of Faith.--The third
commandment of faith given above (see 913) is both negative and
affirmative: (a) as negative, it forbids denial of the faith or
profession of error opposed to faith; (b) as affirmative, it commands
that one make open profession of one's faith.

939. The existence of a prohibition against denial of the faith or
profession of error is taught in scripture and the sinfulness of such
denial is clear from its nature. (a) "He that shall deny Me before men,
I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven" (Matt., x. 33).
Denial of Christ is a grievous sin, for it entails denial by Christ.
(b) He who denies the faith is a heretic or infidel, if he means what
he says; he lies, if he does not mean what he says, and his lie is a
grave injury to God, whose truth is called into question, and against
the neighbor, who is scandalized.

940. With reference to its voluntariness, denial of faith is either
direct or indirect. (a) It is direct, when one intends to deny the
faith; (b) it is indirect, when one does not intend to deny the faith,
but wills to use words, acts, etc., which either from their
signification or use, or from the meaning that will or may be given
them by others, will in the circumstances express a denial of the
faith. Examples: A convert from paganism conceals a crucifix in the
idol of a temple and then joins the pagans in their customary bows of
reverence, while intending only adoration to Christ crucified and
detesting the idol. Titus takes off his hat when passing any church, as
a mark of respect for the good they do. Balbus, a convert from
Nestorianism, recites the names of Nestorius and Dioscurus at Mass,
intending only to honor the patron Saints of those two heresiarchs.

941. There are three ways of denying the faith: (a) by words, spoken or
written, as when one says: "I am not a Catholic," "I do not believe in
miracles"; (b) by acts, as when one dissuades persons of good faith
from entering the Church, or moves them to abandon it, or refuses to
genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, or studiously excludes
scapulars, pictures and all religious symbols; (c) by omission, as when
one fails to answer calumnies against faith, which one could profitably
answer, or fails to protest when another speaks of oneself as a

942. There are various ways in which error opposed to faith is
professed: (a) by words, as when one says that one is a freethinker or
Christian Scientist; (b) by acts, as when one offers incense to an
idol, or receives the Lord's Supper in a Lutheran church, or cheers an
anti-religious address; (c) by signs, as when one uses the Masonic
grip, wears the robes of a Buddhist bonze, takes a Mohammedan or pagan
name, etc., in order to pass oneself off as a non-Catholic; (d) by
omission, as when one is silent when introduced as a Rationalist, or
makes no protest when Indifferentism is being advocated by one's

943. The following are not a denial of faith or profession of error:

(a) Words that deny, not one's allegiance to religion, but one's
acceptance of it as qualified by some calumnious designation. Examples:
Titus denies that he is a "Papist," because he wishes his questioner to
use a term that is not intended to be an insult. Balbus, entering a
pagan region where the name Christian has the meaning of criminal or
enemy on account of crimes committed there by white men in past times,
says to the tribesmen that he is not a Christian, but a follower of
Jesus and a Catholic.

(b) Words that conceal one's rank or state in the Church, are not
against faith, because one can hold the faith without being in a
certain rank or state in the Church, Thus, St. Peter's denial that he
was a follower of Jesus, that he had ever known Him, etc., was,
according to some authorities, not a denial of the Divinity of Jesus or
of the truth of His teaching. Example: A Catholic who hides or denies
his character of priest or religious, his membership in a Catholic
family, organization, race, does not thereby necessarily deny his faith.

(c) Deeds that are contrary to practices of religion, but not to the
profession of faith, are not denial of belief; for one may be very much
attached to one's religion, even ready to fight for it, but not willing
to follow its requirements. Example: Caius is careless about church
duties, misses Mass, eats meat on Fridays, and never goes to the
Sacraments; but he always calls himself a Catholic and wishes to be
considered one.

(d) Signs that have some association with non-Catholic religion, but do
not necessarily represent it (since they are indifferent in themselves
and have other and legitimate uses), do not deny the faith, when not
used as symbols of false religion. Similarly, the omission of signs
that are associated with Catholicity, but which are optional, is not a
denial of the faith. Examples: Titus, when travelling in the Orient,
makes use of the national salutation of the pagan peoples among whom he
lives. Balbus builds a church with architectural features borrowed from
pagan temples. Caius wears a fez or turban in Mohammedan regions where
it is not looked on as a religious headgear. Sempronius practises
circumcision as a hygienic measure. Claudius does not say grace at
meals when dining in public, and does not wear scapulars when bathing
at the seashore.

(e) Omission of profession of faith, when it is not obligatory, is not
a denial of faith; for no one is bound to make known his affairs and
convictions to every acquaintance. Example: Titus works in an office
where most of the clerks are non-Catholics. But no one ever speaks
about religion, and hence it is not known that he is a Catholic.

944. Dangers of Profession of Unbelief.--The principal dangers of
making external profession of false religion, if not of losing faith
itself, are the following: (a) membership in forbidden societies; (b)
communication in sectarian services; (c) cooperation in activities
whose tendency or principles are erroneous.

945. Forbidden Societies.--Societies are forbidden by the Church when
they are intrinsically or extrinsically evil. (a) A society is
intrinsically evil, when it has an evil purpose, or uses evil means to
obtain even an honest end. Thus, societies or parties that conspire
against Church or State, or that seek to undermine Christian doctrines
or morals, have an evil purpose; while those that demand absolute
secrecy or oaths of blind obedience to unknown persons, that favor
cremation, use a sectarian ritual, promote evil literature, etc., are
employing evil means, no matter what may be the end in view. (b) A
society is extrinsically evil, when its end and means are good, but
membership in it is dangerous to faith or morals on account of
circumstances (e.g., on account of the bad type of individuals who make
up the society or control it).

946. The Code (Canon 684) mentions the following kinds of societies as
banned for Catholics:

(a) secret societies, that is, those which demand of members that
certain things which the society considers secrets be told absolutely
to no one outside the society, or certain degrees of the society, not
even to those who may legitimately inquire about them, such as the
bishop or civil superior in the external forum, parents with regard to
their children not emancipated, pastors and confessors in the internal
forum. Those societies are also secret which demand blind and absolute
obedience to unknown leaders;

(b) condemned societies, that is, such as have been censured by the
Church, or simply forbidden. Canon 2335 decrees _ipso facto_
excommunication reserved to the Holy See against all those who join
Masonic or similar associations which plot against the Church or lawful
civil authority. Among the societies forbidden without censure are:
various Biblical societies, societies for the promotion of cremation,
the Knights of Pythias, the Odd Fellows, the Sons of Temperance, the
Independent Order of Good Templars, Theosophical societies, the
Y.M.C.A. Female societies affiliated with these are also condemned,
since they are branches of the main society--for example, the Rebeccas,
the Eastern Star, the Pythian Sisters.

Worthy of detailed consideration is the condemnation of the Communist
Party and the penalties attached to membership in, or defense, or
propagation of the Party. The following questions were asked of the
Holy Office:

1. Whether it is licit to join the Communist Party or to favor it.

Reply: In the negative; for Communism is materialistic and
anti-Christian; and the leaders of the Communists, although they
sometimes verbally profess that they are not attacking religion, in
fact, nevertheless, by doctrine and action show themselves to be
enemies of God and of the true religion and the Church of Christ.

2. Whether it is licit to publish, propagate, or read books,
periodicals, daily papers, or sheets which promote the doctrine or
action of Communists, or to write in them.

Reply: In the negative: for they are forbidden _ipso iure_ (see Canon

3. Whether the faithful who knowingly and freely do the acts mentioned
in 1 and 2 can be admitted to the sacraments.

Reply: In the negative, according to the ordinary principles governing
the refusal of the sacraments to those who are not properly disposed.

4. Whether the faithful who profess the materialistic and
anti-Christian doctrine of Communists, and especially those who defend
or propagate it, incur _ipso facto_ as apostates from the Catholic
faith the excommunication specially reserved to the Holy See.

Reply: In the affirmative (Decree of the Holy Office, July 1, 1949).

The sanction of excommunication specially reserved to the Holy See was
imposed also upon those who teach boys and girls in associations set up
by the Communists to imbue youth with principles and training which are
materialistic and contrary to Christian morality and faith. The
associations themselves are subject to the sanctions of the decree of
July 1, 1949. Moreover parents or guardians who send their children to
such associations, and the children themselves, as long as they have
part in these associations, cannot be admitted to the reception of the
sacraments (Monitum of the Holy Office, July 28, 1950).

(c) seditious societies, that is, those organizations, even though not
secret, which aim at the overthrow of family and property rights;

(d) suspect societies, that is, those whose principles or methods have
the appearance of being unsound. On January 11, 1951 the Holy Office in
response to the question: "Whether Catholics may join the 'Rotary
Club'?" issued the following decree: "It is not licit for clerics to
join the Association 'Rotary Club' or to be present at its meetings;
the laypeople are to be urged to preserve the prescript of Canon 684."
The decree seems to have taken many English-speaking people by
surprise, one paper describing it as "a bewildering document." The
surprise flowed from personal experience of Rotary Clubs as social
clubs dedicated to bonhomie and community improvement. Nevertheless,
the decree was in accord with the general trend of Church policy in
regard to undenominational societies. They are not approved; they are
not condemned as Masonry has been condemned. What is their position?
The response that layfolk are to be exhorted to observe Canon 684 is
indicative of the attitude of the Church in regard to such societies.
The canon instructs them to "beware of secret, condemned, seditious and
suspect societies." Since Rotary Clubs are seldom considered to be
secret and never as condemned nor as seditious, the implication is that
they are suspect. Such was the interpretation of the decree given in
the _Osservatore Romano_ of Jan. 27, 1951.

In regard to clerics, the effect of the decree was to make illicit what
was formerly simply inexpedient; for the Sacred Consistory had replied
on February 4th, 1929, that it was not expedient for Ordinaries to
permit clerics to join Rotary Clubs, or to take part in their meetings.
Moreover, as the _Osservatore_ article indicates, the prohibition is
limited to meetings of members only and does not extend to meetings at
which non-members may be present, provided the purpose of such meetings
befits priestly activity.

The exhortation to layfolk in regard to "Rotary" simply reaffirms the
Church's general attitude to all secular associations. As early as
November 5, 1920 the Holy Office, referring specifically to Y.M.C.A.,
warned the Ordinaries that the note of "suspicion" attaches to all
secular societies. Their efforts to promote good works and good moral
standards independent of religious authority tend to foster the spirit
of religious indifferentism and moral naturalism. Both the Spanish
hierarchy (1929) and the Dutch hierarchy (1930) have so judged Rotary.
However, the degree of suspicion to be attached to each Rotary Club is
a question of fact to be determined in specific instances by the proper
local Ordinary. Where evidence of suspicion is available, exhortatious
not to join the clubs must be made; in the lack of such evidence, the
ordinaries may maintain discreet silence.

(e) societies that aim to elude the lawful vigilance of religious

947. The following organizations fall under the censure against Masonic

(a) all varieties and degrees of Freemasonry, for all the Masonic sects
are included in the Canon. The fact that American, English and Irish
Masons have many excellent individuals in their ranks, and lack the
irreligious and revolutionary character of the Masonry of Continental
Europe or Latin countries, does not exempt them from the censure.

(b) all organizations similar to Masonry, that is, secret societies
that conspire against lawful authority. Such are societies like the
Carbonari, the Fenians, anarchists and nihilists.

948. The sin committed by membership in forbidden societies is grave,
since the purpose of the law--viz., the safeguarding of faith against
serious danger--is itself grave. Such membership is interpreted also as
a profession of false religion, when one joins oneself to a body which
in its branches or degrees has a false creed of its own. (a) Even
though the branch or degree to which one belongs does not require
assent to such a creed, membership expresses a fellowship with those
who do accept it; (b) similarly, participation in the ritual of the
lodges is a communication in ceremonies expressive of false religion;
for, though their externals may appear good or even Christian, the
internal meaning known to the adepts is anti-Catholic or anti-Christian.

949. Absolution of Those Who Belong to Forbidden Societies.--(a) The
sin cannot be absolved unless there is repentance, and hence absolution
cannot be granted those who without sufficient reason refuse to
withdraw from membership, or who refuse to discontinue participation in
false rites.

(b) The excommunication is not incurred by those who joined forbidden
societies in ignorance of the law or of the penalty, provided the
ignorance was not crass or supine. If the censure was actually
incurred, the mode of absolution will depend on the nature of the case:
if the case is occult (i.e., if it is not known and not likely to
become known that the penitent belonged to a society forbidden under
pain of excommunication), the Ordinary may absolve or grant faculties
to absolve (Canon 2237); if the case is a public one, and it would be
very inconvenient to await faculties from Rome, absolution is given
under the condition of recourse to the proper authority within a month
(Canon 2254). Many Ordinaries have by Indult faculties to absolve
members of secret societies.

950. Nominal membership and temporary attendance at meetings may be
permitted as an exception when there are sufficient reasons.

(a) Nominal membership means that one leaves one's name on the roster
of the society and continues to pay its assessments, but does not
communicate with the society or attend its meetings. In 1896 the Holy
Office replied to the American Bishops that this kind of membership in
the Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance and Knights of Pythias might be
permitted under certain conditions, if there was a sufficient reason
(viz., that grave material loss would be incurred by withdrawal). (b)
Temporary attendance at meetings means that for a short time, and not
for longer than absolutely necessary, one is present at gatherings of
the society, but takes no active part in its false cult.

951. The following conditions were laid down for permission of nominal
membership in the Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, etc.: (a) that the
penitent joined the society in good faith, before knowing that it was
condemned; (b) that there be no danger of scandal, or that it be
removed by the declaration that membership is only nominal and only for
the purpose of avoiding temporal losses; (c) that there be no danger of
perversion of the party himself or of his family, in case of sickness
or of death, and no danger of a non-Catholic funeral.

952. Procedure of the confessor with a penitent who has incurred
excommunication on account of membership in the Masons or other like
society should be as follows: (a) the faculty to absolve must be
obtained (see 949), (b) the following promises must be exacted from the
penitent--that he will withdraw entirely from the sect and that he will
repair, as well as he can, the scandal he may have caused; (c) the
penitent must be required to renounce the sect, at least in the
presence of the confessor, and to deliver over to him the books,
manuscripts, insignia, and other objects that are distinctive of it
(the confessor should give these objects to the Ordinary as soon as he
prudently can, but, if grave reasons prevent this, he should burn
them); (d) a salutary penance should be given and frequent confession

953. Procedure of the confessor with a penitent who belongs to the Odd
Fellows or other society forbidden by name, but without censure, should
be as follows: (a) if the penitent is contrite and promises to leave
the society, he can be absolved without special faculties; (b) if the
penitent is contrite but wishes to retain nominal membership, the case
must be referred to the Archbishop of the Province or to the Apostolic
Delegate; (c) if the penitent wishes to retain full membership, he is
not repentant and cannot be absolved.

954. Procedure of the confessor with a penitent who belongs to a
society not condemned by name, but which the confessor himself regards
as evil should be as follows: (a) if the confessor is certain that the
society is one of those condemned implicitly by the Church, because it
exacts inviolable secrecy or blind obedience to its leaders, or has
Masonic characteristics, etc., he should treat it in the same way as
the societies condemned by name; (b) if the confessor is certain that
the society is condemned by natural law for the penitent before him
(e.g., on account of the evil associates and moral dangers it
contains), he should treat it as any other occasion of sin, but it
should be noted that no priest or local Ordinary has authority to
condemn publicly and by name any society not condemned by the Church;
(c) if the confessor is in doubt, he should proceed according to the
rules for an uncertain conscience (see 678, 679, 742), and for the
prudent administration of the Sacraments (see Vol. II).

955. As one of the chief remedies against evil societies is the
formation of Catholic societies, the Code (Canon 684) praises those of
the faithful who enroll as members in associations established or
recommended by the Church. Catholic societies distinct from religious
Orders or Congregations are of two kinds.

(a) Distinctly religious societies are those instituted for the purpose
of promoting a more Christian life among their members, or of fostering
works of piety and charity, or of contributing to the solemnity of
public worship. Such are the Secular Third Orders, Confraternities of
the Blessed Sacrament and of Christian Doctrine, and other pious unions.

(b) Societies that are not distinctly religious, but whose membership
and spirit are Catholic, are of many kinds. Such are the Knights of
Columbus, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Catholic Daughters of America,
Volksverein, Young Men's Institute, etc.

956. Communication in Worship.--Communication with non-Catholics (as
was said above in 882) is either religious or non-religious. It is
clear that communication in non-religious matters does not contain a
profession of error, but the same cannot be said of communication in
religious services, since these are not only acts of worship, but also
expressions of faith in the creed of a certain religion. We must
distinguish, however, between private and public communication.

(a) Communication is private, when a Catholic and non-Catholic offer
together the Lord's Prayer or other similar prayer as a private
devotion, not as an act of official worship. Private devotion is not
the expression of a sectarian creed, and, if there is nothing false in
it and no danger of scandal or perversion from communication between
Catholic and non-Catholic in such devotion, this kind of communication
is not unlawful. In the following paragraphs there will be question of
public communication.

(b) Communication is public, when the rites performed are the official
services of the Catholic Church or of some non-Catholic sect (e.g., the
Mass, the Lord's Supper of the Lutherans, the Evensong of the
Anglicans, the prayer-meeting of other sects). Thus, public
communication takes place either when non-Catholics take part in
Catholic worship, or Catholics take part in non-Catholic worship.

957. Participation of non-Catholics in Catholic services is either by
mere presence, or by reception or performance of Catholic rites.

(a) Mere presence consists in a purely material attendance at a
service, as when non-Catholics assist at Mass and sit, rise and kneel
with the congregation or remain seated throughout. There is no
objection whatever to this kind of participation; on the contrary,
non-Catholics should be invited to Catholic sermons and services, and
made to feel welcome, for in what better way can the divine command of
working for their conversion be complied with? Only excommunicated
persons are excluded from the offices of the Church (Canon 2269, Sec.1).
It is also allowed that Catholic bishops and clergy accompany a
non-Catholic ruler to the church, and assign him and his escort an
honorable place therein.

(b) Reception of Catholic rites is had when non-Catholics, without
performing any liturgical function, receive some spiritual favor
through the rites of the Church, as when a non-Catholic receives a
priest's blessing.

(c) Performance of Catholic rites exists when a non-Catholic exercises
some office in a liturgical function of the Catholic Church, as when a
Protestant acts as sponsor at a Catholic Baptism.

958. Cases of reception of Catholic rites by non-Catholics permitted by
law are the following:

(a) Reception of Sacramentals.--Since the purpose of these rites and
objects is to implore graces and temporal favors with a view to the
illumination and salvation of the recipient, and since our Lord Himself
blessed and cured even the pagans, the Church permits blessings and
exorcisms to be conferred on non-Catholics (Canons 1149, 1152).
Similarly, blessed candles, palms, ashes and other real sacramentals
may be given to them. Examples: The Church has permitted priests to
visit the homes of Mohammedans to bless and pray over the sick, and
also to bless the houses of schismatics, provided they were summoned
and avoided all communication in prayer.

(b) Reception of Sacraments.-Since it is possible that the salvation of
a dying person may depend on absolution, good moralists, relying on
decisions of Roman Congregations, hold that conditional absolution may
be given to a heretic or schismatic who is dying and unconscious, or
even to one such who is dying and conscious, provided he is in good
faith and contrite, and danger of scandal has been removed.

(c) Reception of Fruits of the Mass.--Since Christ died for all, there
is nothing in the nature of things to prevent the application of Mass
to any persons who are living or in Purgatory; and from Canon 809 it
appears that Mass may be offered for any living person, and also for
any deceased person about whose salvation we may entertain hope. Hence,
neither the divine nor the ecclesiastical law forbids the application
of Mass for heretics, schismatics, or infidels. The Church also permits
Mass to be said privately, all scandal removed, for excommunicated
persons. Under these same conditions, then, Mass may be said for
non-Catholics, both living and dead (Canon 2262, Sec.2, n. 2).

(d) Reception of the Suffrages of the Church.--Since God wishes all to
be saved and public peace to be maintained (I Tim., ii), and since the
Church desires that Ordinaries and pastors should have at heart the
conversion of non-Catholics (Canon 1350), public prayers for the
prosperity of non-Catholic rulers and officials--likewise sermons,
missions and other works for the conversion of unbelievers--are not
only allowed, but recommended and required.

959. Non-Catholics have not the same right as Catholics to receive the
rites of the Church, and hence when they are admitted to them, there
are certain restrictions to be observed.

(a) Restrictions as to Sacred Things.--As admission of non-Catholics to
sacramentals, etc., is a favor, not a right, it should be confined to
cases allowed by the Church. Thus, it is forbidden to grant indulgences
or to give the nuptial blessing to non-Catholics, and only in very
exceptional cases may any ceremonies be permitted at mixed marriages
(Canons 1102, 1109). Non-Catholics may not receive the Pax; may not be
invited to take part in the solemn services of receiving ashes on Ash
Wednesday, palms on Palm Sunday and candles on Candlemas Day; may not
receive ecclesiastical burial (Holy Office, June 8, 1859). Children
sent by their parents to non-Catholic services may not be confirmed
(Holy Office, August 28, 1780); a Catholic priest is not allowed to
supply for a non-Catholic minister, by accompanying the body of a
non-Catholic from the home to the graveyard, even though the body be
not brought to Church, nor the bell tolled (Holy Office, January 26,
1886). It is not permissible to lend a Catholic church to non-Catholics
for their services.

(b) Restrictions as to Persons.--As superstition and irreverence have
to be avoided, the sacramentals may not be administered or given at all
to non-Catholics about whose good faith and purpose there is doubt.

(c) Restrictions as to Mode.--The Church, while she wishes to help and
benefit non-Catholics, must avoid anything that would cause scandal or
have the appearance of equal recognition of believers and unbelievers.
Thus, when Mass is offered for outsiders, the same publicity and pomp
is not permitted as when there is question of Catholics.

960. As regards the performance of Catholic rites by non-Catholics, the
Church disapproves of every kind of such participation, but does not
refuse to tolerate the more remote kind, when there is grave necessity
and no scandal is caused.

(a) By more remote participation we understand such as scarcely differs
from passive assistance (e.g., to act as witness at a marriage), or
such as carries with it no recognition as an official of the Church
(e.g., to act as substitute or temporary organist). Hence, the Church
has permitted this kind of participation in particular cases, when the
authorities decided that there was urgent necessity and no scandal.
Examples: Moralists hold that, when a heretic or schismatic has been
designated as sponsor at Baptism and cannot be refused without grave
offense, he may be allowed to act as witness. The Holy Office has also
declared that heretics should not be used as witnesses at marriage, but
may be tolerated as such by the Ordinary, when there is a grave reason
and no scandal (August 18, 1891); that a non-Catholic organist may be
employed temporarily, if it is impossible to secure one who is a
Catholic, and no scandal is caused (February 23, 1820); that in certain
special circumstances girls belonging to a schismatical sect might be
allowed to sing with the Catholics at church functions, especially at
Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (January 25, 1906).

(b) Proximate participation is the exercise of functions connected with
a sacred rite (e.g., to act as server at Mass), or that imply a
recognition of the religion of the one who participates (e.g., to act
as representative of some sect at a funeral and receive liturgical
honors). The Church has always refused to tolerate this kind of
participation. Examples: Non-Catholics may not act as sponsors at
Baptism or Confirmation under pain of invalidity of sponsorship (Canons
765, 795), nor chant the Office in choir (Holy Office, June 8, 1859),
nor be employed as singers of the liturgical music (Holy Office, May 1,
1889), nor carry torches or lights in church ceremonies (Holy Office,
November 20, 1850). Likewise, non-Catholics may not become members of
Catholic confraternities, nor assist at Catholic services as official
representatives of some sect or sectarian society.

961. Participation of Catholics in non-Catholic services may happen
today in so many ways, and it is so difficult at times to draw the line
between lawful and unlawful communication, that it is well before
considering these cases to state the general rules that apply here.

(a) It is lawful to perform an act from which two effects follow, one
good and the other bad, if the act in itself is good or indifferent, if
there is a sufficiently grave reason for performing it, if the evil
effect is not intended, and if the evil effect be not prior to the good
effect (see 104).

(b) Circumstances vary in different localities and countries, and
communication that would signify unity of belief in a place where
Catholics and non-Catholics are very unequal numerically might be very
harmless in a place where there is no great numerical difference.
Offense to non-Catholics should not be given needlessly.

(c) In doubtful cases the decision whether or not a particular kind of
communication is lawful or unlawful pertains to the Ordinary (Canon

962. Participation of Catholics in non-Catholic services is either
active or passive. (a) Participation is active when one takes a part or
fulfills some function in an act that is an official expression of the
worship and belief of a sect, even though this takes place outside a
church, or is not open to the general public.

(b) Participation is passive, if one merely assists as a spectator, and
not as a worshipper, at something pertaining to non-Catholic worship.

963. Sacred things in which communication is possible are of three

(a) the chief acts of divine worship (i.e., Sacrifices, Sacraments,

(b) the secondary acts of divine worship (such as prayers, processions,
vows, oaths, the Divine Office, hymn singing, scripture reading, etc.).
In the Protestant denominations some one or other of these is, as a
rule, the central or distinctive service, although some have other
proper features of their own, such as the silent meeting of the
Quakers, the seance of the Spiritualists, the march of the Salvation
Army, the charity kiss of the Dunkards;

(c) places (e.g., churches, lodge rooms, cemeteries), times (e.g., days
of feast or fast), and objects (e.g., images, badges, aprons, banners,
robes), pertaining to divine worship.

964. It is unlawful for Catholics in any way to assist actively at or
take part in the worship of non-Catholics (Canon 1258). Such assistance
is intrinsically and gravely evil; for (a) if the worship is
non-Catholic in its form (e.g., Mohammedan ablutions, the Jewish
paschal meal, revivalistic "hitting the trail," the right hand of
fellowship, etc.), it expresses a belief in the false creed symbolized;
(b) if the worship is Catholic in form, but is under the auspices of a
non-Catholic body (e.g., Baptism as administered by a Protestant
minister, or Mass as celebrated by a schismatical priest), it expresses
either faith in a false religious body or rebellion against the true

965. It is unlawful for Catholics to simulate active assistance in the
worship of non-Catholics, for, while the non-Catholic rite would be
avoided, something which appeared to be that rite would be done, and
thus profession of faith in it would be given.

(a) Hence, it is not lawful to do an indifferent act which bystanders
from the circumstances will have to conclude is an act of false
worship. Thus, Eleazar would not eat lawful meat which was put before
him in order that he might pretend to eat the meat of sacrifice after
the manner of the heathen (II Mach., vi).

(b) It is not lawful to accept a false certificate of participation in
false worship. Hence, the early Church condemned as apostates the
Libellatics (i.e., those Christians, who, to protect themselves in time
of persecution, obtained by bribery or otherwise a forged or genuine
magistrate's certificate that they had sacrificed to the heathen gods).

966. It is unlawful for Catholics to assist passively at non-Catholic
worship, unless there are present the conditions requisite for
performing an act that has two results, one good and the other evil
(see 104); for even passive assistance frequently involves sin.

(a) Hence, the assistance itself must be really indifferent, that is,
it must be a merely passive presence without any active participation
in the service. Examples: A person who stands in the rear of a Quaker
meeting house as an onlooker assists passively; but one who sits
quietly among the others present, as if in meditation, assists
actively. A person who sits in a pew during a revival in order to see
what is going on, assists passively; but, if he joins with the
congregation in bowing, groaning, etc., he assists actively.

(b) The evil effect that may result from assistance (such as scandal
and danger of perversion) must not be prior to the good effect;
otherwise, evil would be done for the sake of good. Examples: Titus, a
non-Catholic, goes to Mass as a spectator, with his Catholic friend
Balbus. He then asks Balbus to assist as a spectator at the services of
his denomination, and thus see for himself that the latter is better.
Balbus, in order to be courteous, consents. Here Balbus aims to show
politeness, which is good, but the means he uses--namely, the
impression he gives that he is not convinced of the superiority of his
own religion--is bad.

(c) The evil effect (i.e., remote danger of perversion, unavoidable
scandal) must not be intended or approved, but only permitted. Example:
Caius, a Catholic public official, has to attend funerals and weddings
in Protestant churches as a mark of the public respect for notable
persons. He knows that a few will take scandal at his action, but he
wishes only to do his duty as an official, and not to offend anyone
(see on Scandal).

(d) The cause of assistance must be in proportion to the kind of
assistance. Hence, a greater reason is required for assistance on
several occasions than on one, for assistance at infidel than at
heretical services, for assistance at the primary than at the secondary
act of worship, for assistance by a priest than for assistance by a
layman, etc. Example: Graver reason would be necessary to justify
assistance at a non-Catholic funeral, if there were signs of
anti-Catholicism manifested (e.g., flower designs and regalia of a
hostile sect placed on the coffin), than if the service contained
nothing offensive.

967. Cases of communication in false sacrificial rites are as follows:
(a) Active participation is had in such acts as the slaying and
offering of victims, the burning of incense before idols, the eating of
sacrificial banquets; (b) Passive participation is had when one merely
watches the rite of sacrifice without taking any part therein.

968. Cases of communication in the Sacrifice of the Mass are as
follows: (a) Active participation is had in such acts as taking the
part of deacon in a schismatical Mass, assisting at a schismatical Mass
with the intention of hearing Mass formally (i.e., of offering it with
the priest). If on Sunday, one is where there is only a schismatical
church, one is excused from the obligation of hearing Mass, and may not
hear Mass in that church (Holy Office, December 5, 1608; August 7,
1704). (b) Passive participation is had when one is present merely as a
spectator, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, but giving no other
signs of religious devotion. This is permissible under the conditions
mentioned above (see 966), if there is no scandal, or danger of
perversion (Holy Office, April 24, 1894).

969. Cases of participation in the Sacraments or sacramentals, real or
reputed, are as follows: (a) Active participation takes place when one
receives a Sacrament from a non-Catholic minister, or offers one's
child to receive a Sacrament from such a minister, or contracts
marriage in the presence of such a minister, or acts as sponsor at a
non-Catholic baptism or confirmation or as the religious witness at a
non-Catholic marriage, or answers in public non-Catholic prayers, or
takes ashes blessed by schismatics. (b) Passive participation is had
when one merely looks on at the administration of a Sacrament or
sacramental by a non-Catholic minister, without signs of approval or
union in what is being done.

970. There are certain cases that seem to be active participations in
Sacraments with non-Catholics, and yet are permitted by the Code. In
reality, however, there is no active communication in those cases.

(a) Canons 886 and 905 allow the faithful to receive communion and
absolution according to a Rite different from their own, so that one
who belongs to the Latin Rite may lawfully receive in Communion a Host
consecrated according to the Greek Rite, or go to confession to an
Oriental priest. But in these Canons there is question of different
Rites within the Catholic Church, not of those of non-Catholics.

(b) Canons 742 and 882 allow those who are in danger of death to
receive Baptism and absolution from an heretical or schismatical
minister, and theologians apply the same principle to Extreme Unction
and the Viaticum. But there is no communication in non-Catholic
ceremonies in these cases, for the Sacraments belong to the Catholic
Church, and for the sake of the dying she authorizes non-Catholic
ministers to act as her representatives, provided there is no scandal
or danger of perversion.

971. Cases of participation in non-sacramental rites are as follows:

(a) Oaths and Vows.--Participation is active when one swears in words
or by other signs which, according to local usage, manifest belief in
the creed of some sect; it is not active, when the manner of the oath
does not signify adherence to a false creed; Example: If one is
required to swear, by touching or kissing the non-Catholic Bible, as a
sign of approval of Protestantism or Masonry, one may not consent. But,
if the Government presents a non-Catholic Bible with no thought of
Protestantism, there is no approval of Protestantism in the one who
swears on that Bible, although, if the custom is not general, there
might be scandal if no protest were made. A Catholic may bring his own
Bible with him, or ask for a copy of the Catholic Bible.

(b) Services--Participation is active when one marches in an Anglican
procession, plays the organ or sings at Y.M.C.A. services, joins in the
prayers or responses offered in a Protestant church, etc. (Holy Office,
July 6, 1889). Participation is passive if one looks on during a rare
visit, or listens by radio to the musical program broadcast from
Protestant services, or if one is obliged to attend non-Catholic
services habitually, not as a profession of faith, but as a matter of
civil duty or of domestic discipline, as happens with soldiers or with
inmates of public institutions. Participation is not active if one
adores the Blessed Sacrament carried in a schismatical procession which
one meets by chance and unavoidably. Examples: Titus belongs to the
honorary guard of a state ruler, and has to accompany the latter to
non-Catholic services on certain state occasions. Balbus is tutor in a
non-Catholic family, and is expected to take his charges to their
church and back home on Sundays. Claudia is a maid in a non-Catholic
family, and is ordered to hold one of the children while it is being
baptized by the non-Catholic minister. In all these cases the presence
at the services is purely passive, since the intention of the Catholic
present is not to perform any religious duty, but only some civil or
domestic service (see IV Kings, v. 18). But, on the other hand, the
martyrs during the reigns of Elizabeth and her successors refused to
attend the Anglican services, because this was required by law as a
sign of conformity to the Established Church--that is, an active
presence was prescribed.

972. Cases of participation in religious places, times and objects are
as follows:

(a) Places.--Participation is active when one orders one's body to be
buried in a sectarian graveyard, when one enters a schismatical or
heretical church privately in order to visit the Blessed Sacrament or
pray, when one offers up Catholic services in a non-Catholic temple, if
these things are looked upon by the public as indications of identity
of belief between Catholics and non-Catholics. Participation is merely
passive, if one visits non-Catholic places of worship out of curiosity
in order to look at the pictures, hear the music or listen to or take
part in a political lecture or debate. In case of necessity, the Church
permits Catholic services to be performed in the same building as that
wherein non-Catholic rites are held, e.g., the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre at Jerusalem which is used by various denominations (Holy
Office, 12 April, 1704).

(b) Times.--Participation is active if one observes new moons,
sabbaths, and days of fast as prescribed in the Old Law.

(c) Objects.--Participation is active if one wears the uniform of a
condemned society, the ring or other emblem of Freemasonry, etc., or
makes use of other insignia whose sole purpose is to indicate
membership in some sect, unless it be evident that these are used for
some other purpose (e.g., in order to act a certain part in a play).

973. Cases of participation through attendance at non-Catholic
religious instructions are as follows:

(a) Active participation in worship is had when one listens to a
preacher, Sunday school teacher, etc., and signifies approval by
joining in "Amens" or other acclamations.

(b) Participation is merely passive, if at church or over the radio,
one listens out of curiosity, or in order to be able to refute errors,
or for the sake of perfecting oneself in diction or eloquence, or of
showing respect to a person whose funeral oration is being delivered,
etc. But, even though there be no active participation, it will usually
be unlawful to listen to these sectarian discourses on account of the
danger of perversion to the listener or of scandal to others. Catholics
who are scientifically trained and staunch in faith may for good
reasons hear sectarian sermons, but the greater number would be
disturbed or unsettled (see the principles given above on dangerous
books and schools, 854-857, 868). Moreover, even those who have a right
to listen to non-Catholic religious talks have to be on their guard
against scandal, for outsiders may regard their attention as approval
of doctrine or participation in cult, and Catholics not sufficiently
instructed may regard their example as an encouragement to imitate
(cfr. 979, 981).

974. Participation in non-Catholic assemblages or occasions whose
character is of a mixed kind (partly religious and partly
non"religious) are permitted by the Church, when due regard is had for
avoidance of scandal, perversion, denial of faith, etc.

(a) Some of these occasions are chiefly religious, but are also looked
on as family or civic solemnities, such as christenings, weddings,
funerals. Hence, it is allowed to assist at the religious part of the
occasion in a passive way for the sake of courtesy, or to exercise some
function which is looked upon as belonging to the non-religious part of
the occasion. Caution must be taken to ensure that the particular sect
involved does not consider the exercise of the particular function as
participating in the religious aspect of the ceremony. Likewise, on
condition that the possibility of scandal, perversion, etc., has been
removed, the following functions may be performed. One may act as a
witness at the christening of a near relative who is not a Catholic;
however, it is forbidden to be a sponsor, even by proxy, at baptisms
performed by a heretical minister (Holy Office, decr., May 10, 1770).
To be pallbearer or undertaker at a funeral, to be an usher at a
wedding, to be an extra bridesmaid, etc., may be permitted. (If the
function of best man or maid of honor be considered as merely
attendants to the bride or groom, such participation in itself would
not be illicit; but since the danger of scandal might often be present,
such participation is dangerous. It is lawful for a Catholic pastor to
attend the funeral of a non-Catholic friend or relative, provided he
does not wear his sacred garb and takes no part in the ceremonies.
Canon 1258, Sec.2 establishes the general norm regulative of these cases:
a passive or merely material presence may be, for a serious reason,
tolerated as a mark of esteem or social courtesy at funerals, weddings,
and similar functions, provided there is involved no danger of
perversion or scandal; in a doubtful case, the serious reason for this
presence must be approved by the local Ordinary.

(b) Other occasions are chiefly non-religious in character, but are
also partly religious, or have the appearance of being religious. Such
are, for example, the coronation, birthday, wedding, or funeral of a
ruler, school commencements, political conventions, patriotic meetings,
civil marriage before a magistrate who is also a non-Catholic minister.
When these exercises are chiefly non-religious or entirely civil, even
though conducted in non-Catholic churches or by non-Catholic ministers,
the Church grants permission to participate in them to some extent, if
there is sufficient reason.

975. Among the mixed occasions just mentioned are not included such as
have an anti-Catholic or anti-religious spirit, such as funerals from
which all manifestations of religion are excluded on account of hatred
of religion, entertainments held by forbidden societies in which the
members are present in regalia, picnics under the auspices of the
Orangemen, etc.

976. Cooperation in Religious Activities.--A third danger of making
external profession of a false religion is cooperation in activities
whose tendency or principles are erroneous (see 944). Cooperation in a
false religion is of two kinds, immediate and mediate. (a) Cooperation
is immediate, when one takes a part in an act of a false religion
itself (e.g., by worshipping an idol). This kind of cooperation was
discussed above, as participation or communication (see 956-975). (b)
Cooperation is mediate, when one takes part, not in an act of a false
religion, but in some other act which is a preparation for a help to
the act of a false religion. This is the kind of cooperation we are now

977. Mediate cooperation is of various kinds. (a) It is proximate or
remote, according as the preparation or help afforded to false religion
is near to or far from the religious act. Thus, to make ready the
lights, incense, flowers, etc. in front of an idol is proximate
cooperation; to give money to an idolatrous priest or bonze is remote
cooperation. (b) Mediate cooperation is material or formal, according
as the intention of the cooperator is to share in or help error itself,
or merely to help those who are in error, while disapproving of their
error. Thus, if one prepares a pagan temple for worship or contributes
money towards its maintenance because one's sympathies are with its
idolatry, one's cooperation is formal; if one does these things only in
order to make a living or to show friendship to an individual pagan,
one's cooperation is material. It is clear that formal cooperation is a
grave sin against faith, and hence we shall speak now only of material

978. The principles governing the lawfulness of material cooperation
will be treated at length below in their proper place among the sins
opposed to charity. But since, on account of the mixed conditions of
society today, there are innumerable cases of material cooperation in
religion, it will be useful to state in advance in this place the
principles bearing on material cooperation and their application to
cases on religion and worship. The principles are the same as those
given for an act that has two effects, one good and the other bad.
Hence, material cooperation is not lawful, except when the following
conditions are present:

(a) The action of him who cooperates must be good in itself or at least
indifferent, for of course, if it is evil, it is not lawful. Thus, if a
person were to give to one pagan temple objects he had stolen from
another temple, his action would be intrinsically sinful on account of
the theft. Similarly, if a person were to contribute to a collection
list as "sympathizer" with a school for the propagation of atheism or
as "beneficiary" from the sacrifices to be offered an idol, his act
would be intrinsically sinful as being a promotion of error or
superstition, even though he were not really a sympathizer with atheism
or a believer in idols.

(b) The intention of him who cooperates must be good; for, if he wills
to help a false religion, he is guilty of formal cooperation; if he
wills some other wrong end, he is guilty of some other species of sin.
Thus, if one who does not believe in idolatry contributes to it on
account of sympathy with anti-Christian movements, he is guilty of
enmity to the truth.

(c) There must be a reason for the cooperation proportionate to the
gravity of the sin which will be committed by others, to the proximity
and necessity of the cooperation, and to the obligation which one has
of preventing the sin of others. Examples: To contribute to a sect
which plots the downfall of legitimate authority is never lawful, for
there is no reason of temporal or private good that can be a
compensation for the destruction of the public good. To contribute to
the building of a Mohammedan mosque does not require so serious a
reason as to contribute to the building of a pagan temple, for mosques
are not used for idolatry. A graver reason is needed to justify ringing
the bell or ushering the people to their seats for a service of false
worship than to justify sweeping and dusting the temple the day before
the service, for in the former case the cooperation is closer. A
greater reason is required to build a house of false worship, when
there is no one else to build it, than when there are many others who
will gladly build it if one refuses, for in the former case one's
cooperation is so necessary that without it the false worship cannot
take place, but not so in the latter case. A much more serious reason
would be required to justify parents conducting their children to a
place of false worship than would be required to justify a public
chauffeur in taking passengers thither; for the parents have a special
duty to guard the religion of their children.

979. The above principles on mediate cooperation are clear enough, but
it is frequently very difficult to apply them on account of the
uncertainty as to whether or not a particular act of cooperation is
indifferent in itself, or whether a particular reason for cooperation
is sufficient. But the following rules will help:

(a) An act is indifferent or good, when it does not tend to evil from
its very nature or the circumstances, but has purposes that are not
bad. It is bad when either intrinsically (i.e., from its nature) or
extrinsically (i.e., from circumstances) it tends necessarily to evil.
Examples: A derisory image of Christ and the manual of an obscene cult
are intrinsically evil, inasmuch as they necessarily convey error or
immorality. To draw up plans for a temple of idolaters in a Christian
country would have the appearance of favoring the propagation of
idolatry; to work on the construction of a temple in a pagan country
where the lending of one's labor is regarded as a sign of acceptance of
paganism, to help build a meeting house for a sect that plots the
overthrow of government or religion--all these acts are indifferent in
themselves (for one may also draw plans and put up walls for good or
indifferent purposes), but from the circumstances they are evil in the
cases given.

(b) Reasons for cooperation may be ranked as great, greater and
greatest according to the kinds of goods that are at stake, and their
sufficiency or insufficiency may be determined by measuring them with
the gravity of the cooperation that is given. Great reasons are: fear
of serious suffering, or of the wrath of husband or other superior, or
of loss of an opportunity to make a considerable profit. Greater
reasons are: fear of loss of position, or of notable detriment to
reputation or fortune, or of severe imprisonment. Among the greatest
reasons for cooperation in the worship of a false religion are the
following: danger of loss of life or limb, of perpetual imprisonment,
of great dishonor, of loss of all one's earthly possessions, of
disturbance of the public peace.

980. Cases of cooperation in false religion that occur most frequently
are: (a) contributions made to schools, churches, institutions; (b)
labor given to buildings and objects of worship or instruction; (c)
labor given to acts of worship or instruction.

981. Contributions to false worship are unlawful, even apart from
scandal, danger of perversion, and the bad intention of the cooperator
in the following cases:

(a) When on account of circumstances the contributions are signs of
sympathy with religious errors. Examples: Titus gives many stipends for
Masses to a schismatical priest. Balbus, when asked, contributes
liberally to a fund for the building of a hall under the auspices of
atheists. Caius, without being asked, gives a small donation towards
the erection of a pagan temple. Claudius sends in a subscription to the
treasury of a political organization whose purpose is anti-religious,
and promises to support their ticket.

(b) Contributions, even though they manifest no sympathy with religious
error, are unlawful, when there is no reason for the cooperation, or
only an insufficient reason. Examples: Caius contributes to a pagan
temple for no other reason than that he has not the heart to refuse
anyone. Titus advertises constantly in an antireligious paper in order
to help his business (cfr. 1530).

982. If there is no bad intention on the part of the contributor, and
if the danger of scandal or perversion is excluded, contributions are
permitted under the following conditions, of which both must be present:

(a) The contribution must not be a mark of sympathy with religious
error. This condition will be fulfilled more readily in countries of
mixed religion, where Catholics and non-Catholics have been long
associated together, and where non-Catholic denominations are engaged
in many things other than the preaching of their doctrines, such as
works of benevolence. Example: Balbus contributes at times to the
building or maintenance of Protestant orphan asylums, hospitals, and
schools, in a locality where these institutions are open to all and a
contribution is not regarded as a sign of agreement with sectarian

(b) There must be a sufficient reason for making the contribution, such
as the common good or great private necessity. Examples: Claudius
contributes to the building of a non-Catholic church, in order that
Catholics may thus obtain exclusive use of a church till then used by
Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Titus buys tickets for bazaars, lawn
fetes, oyster suppers, dances, picnics and other entertainments held
for the benefit of non-Catholic churches, since, if he does not do
this, he will lose trade and his business will be injured.

983. The building of houses of false worship, the production and sale
of articles used in false worship, are unlawful also in two cases:

(a) when, on account of circumstances, they are a mark of approval of
the false worship. Examples: Christians of Japan were forbidden by the
Church to cooperate in the erection of altars or temples to idols, even
if threatened with death or exile, and the reason of the prohibition
seems to have been in each instance that such work was looked on and
demanded as a profession of faith in paganism. Similarly, the
construction of non-Catholic edifices in a Catholic country, of a pagan
temple in a Christian country, or of an atheistic hall, would be signs
of approbation of error. It is difficult to see how one who sells idols
to those who request them for purposes of idolatry does not show favor
to false worship, although he might be excused if, under threat of
great harm, he delivered them with a protest that he was acting under

(b) when there is no reason, or no sufficient reason, for cooperation
with false worship. Example: Balbus helps to build non-Catholic places
of worship for no other reason than that he is asked to do so, or that
he receives good pay.

984. Building non-Catholic temples or furnishing the appurtenances of
worship, scandal and other evil being avoided, are lawful under two
conditions as above:

(a) the work must not be regarded as a sign of approval of false
worship. Examples: The Church has permitted Christians to assist in the
construction of Mohammedan mosques, when this was done unwillingly by
them and under compulsion. The manufacture of statues of Buddha or of
other idols is not a sign that one approves of idolatry, because these
objects have legitimate uses, such as adornment of palaces or art
galleries. Similarly, the production and distribution of emblems of a
non-Catholic sect or secret society is regarded as being in itself an
indifferent sect, on account of the various uses to which such objects
may be put;

(b) there must be a reason sufficiently grave for doing this kind of
work. Hence, a greater reason is needed to build a pagan temple than a
Mohammedan mosque, and graver reason to build a mosque than an
heretical place of worship; likewise, greater reason is required to
cooperate as architect than as hirer and supervisor of labor, greater
reason to cooperate as supervisor of labor than as stonecutter,
bricklayer, etc.; greater reason is required to justify selling than
making idols; greater reason to justify selling altar cloths and breads
for the Lord's Supper than for selling pews and stained glass windows.
Examples: Since lights, benches, bells, tables, cloths, etc., are not
necessarily intended for direct use in acts of worship, a sufficient
reason for selling them to non-Catholic churches is the profit that
will be made. But, since vestments and chalices pertain directly to
worship, a more serious reason is required for selling them than
business gains.

985. Making the preparations for non-Catholic services is unlawful in
the two cases given above, that is, when there is approval or
insufficient reason.  (a) If the work manifests an approval of the
services, it is unlawful. Such positions as sexton, sacristan, usher,
beadle, church-warden, and trustee, imply recognition of the worship or
membership in the congregation, although the same does not seem to be
true of membership in the civil corporation of a church, nor of
external offices such as janitor, caretaker, and attorney. Examples:
Balba, an Anglican who is sick, wishes her minister to bring her
communion. She asks her nurse, Titia, who is a Catholic, to telephone
the minister to bring communion, and also directs Titia to prepare an
altar and assist the minister on his arrival by lighting the candles,
making responses, etc. Titia may not consent, for such immediate
cooperation would mean approval of and participation in Anglican rites.
Claudius, a Catholic, is hired by the minister of a Protestant church
to take care of the yard and garden about the church and parsonage.
Sometimes the minister asks Claudius to play the chimes in his church
tower which call the people to the services. The gardening work is
indifferent, but the playing of the chimes seems at least an unlawful
cooperation, since it is an invitation to non-Catholic worship.

(b) If there is no sufficient reason for the work, it is unlawful.
Examples: Gaia, a Catholic, acts as scrubwoman and cleaner in a
schismatical church for no other reason than friendship for members of
the altar society. On certain feast days her husband, Caius, a
Catholic, takes pilgrims to the schismatical church in a bus, only
because he makes considerable profit.

986. Making preparations for non-Catholic services, scandal and other
danger being avoided, is lawful when the two conditions given above are
present.  (a) Hence, the preparations must contain no indication of
approval of the services. Examples: If Titia, the nurse mentioned in
the previous paragraph, called in an Anglican nurse to receive and
fulfill the orders of Balba, she would show that she did not herself
approve of the rites, and her act would be indifferent in itself. If
she could not avoid telephoning the minister without serious
consequences, it would not be unlawful for her to tell him that Balba
wished him to call. She might even in great necessity prepare the table
herself, but could take no part in the rite. The acts of telling the
minister that a visit from him was desired and of preparing the table
would not be, in the circumstances, approving of the rite that
followed. If Claudius mentioned in the foregoing paragraph wound up the
clock in the church tower, or rang the bell at certain times to
indicate the hour of the day, his acts would be indifferent, since they
have no necessary reference to worship.

(b) There must be a reason sufficiently grave for engaging in the work
that prepares for the services. Examples: If Caia mentioned in the
preceding paragraph were in great poverty and could find no other
employment, this would be a sufficient reason for her cooperation.
Likewise, if her husband drove a bus that carried passengers to
whatever destination they desired, and he could not refuse to let them
off at the church without being dismissed or causing other like
inconveniences, he would have sufficient reason for his cooperation.

987. The Commandment of External Profession of Faith.--The third
commandment of faith (mentioned in 918) has been considered so far in
its negative aspect--that is, as a prohibition against the denial of
truth or the profession of error. It remains to consider it in its
affirmative aspect--that is, as a precept of profession of faith or of
denial of error.

988. The ways of making profession of faith are various:  (a) It is
made implicitly, if one performs acts that suppose faith; explicitly,
if one declares in words one's internal belief. Thus, a Catholic
professes his faith implicitly by observing the precepts of the Church;
explicitly, by reciting before others an act of faith or the Creed.

(b) The declaration of one's faith in words is made in ordinary ways,
if one affirms it to others, privately or publicly, or if one teaches
it or defends it in debate; it is made solemnly, if it is recited
according to a prescribed form as a ceremony. Thus, a Catholic who
answers to a questioner that he is a Catholic, or who explains the
truths of faith to an inquirer, or who replies to the objections of an
unbeliever, makes an ordinary profession of faith; one who reads before
the bishop or other designated authority a formula prescribed by the
Church, makes solemn profession of faith. The solemn profession of
faith is usually made before the altar, on which candles are lighted;
and he who makes profession of faith kneels before the authority who
receives it. Sometimes witnesses are present and the profession is

(c) The solemn profession of faith is sometimes an abjuration (i.e., a
declaration of one's adherence to the faith of the Church and a
recantation of previous errors); sometimes it is a declaration or oath
that one rejects errors or accepts truths. Thus, converts before
reception into the Church abjure the errors they formerly held;
officials in the Church before assuming authority make a profession of
faith in which they reprobate Modernism and express their belief in the
Creed and the teachings of the Church.

989. The existence of a divine precept of profession of faith is proved
from revelation and intrinsic reasons, as follows:

(a) "If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy
heart that God hath raised Him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart we believe unto justice, but with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation" (Rom., x. 9, 10). This precept
obliges under grave sin, since it is required for salvation.

(b) The first reason for external profession of faith is the honor of
God; for it is a mark of disrespect to God to be ashamed or afraid to
acknowledge oneself as a believer in His Word or a witness to its
truth, on account of what others may think or say or do.

(c) A second reason for the external profession of faith is one's own
good. It is well known that faith is strengthened by external acts, and
that it grows weak and decays among Catholics who have no priests or
churches or means of practising their faith.

(d) A third reason for profession of faith is the good of others, for
the confession of faith is an encouragement to those who are strong in
faith, an example to those whose faith is weak, and a light to those
who have not the faith.

990. The divine precept of profession of faith, since it is
affirmative, does not call for fulfillment at every moment. It obliges
only at those times when the honor of God, the Revealer of Truth, or
the needs of our neighbor, who is called to the truth, demand that one
declare externally one's internal belief. (a) The honor of God demands
a confession of faith, when a refusal to give it signifies that one
does not accept the truths revealed by God, that revelation contains
error, etc. (b) The needs of our neighbor demand a confession of faith,
when a refusal to give it will prevent another from embracing the
faith, or will cause him to lose it or give up its practices, etc.

991. The honor of God or the good of the neighbor calls for an external
profession of faith at the following times: (a) when a person is
joining the Church or returning to it, for the Church is a visible
society and membership in it should be visible; (b) when a Catholic is
interrogated about his faith, for here the honor of God and the good of
others require that he be not ashamed of Christ or His Words (Luke, ix.
26), and that he should cause his light to shine before men (Matt., v.
16); (c) when a Catholic is in the company of others who are ridiculing
or calumniating the faith, and a protest is looked for from him on
account of his authority, knowledge, etc.

992. The profession of faith made by one who is joining the Church must
be external, but the same publicity is not necessary for every case.

(a) Secret profession of faith is made when the reception of a convert
is known only to himself and the priest who received him. This is
permitted only in grave necessity, when the spiritual good of the
convert requires it, and no injury is done to the honor of God or the
Welfare of the neighbor. Example: Titus is dying and wishes to be
baptized, but for an important reason he is unwilling to have the fact
of his conversion disclosed. Father Balbus, therefore, baptizes without

(b) Private profession of faith is made when the reception of a convert
is made before the priest and two witnesses, but the fact of the
conversion is not made known to others on account of circumstances.
This is permitted only for a short time and for serious reasons (see
932, 993), as the task of concealing one's faith for a long time is
most difficult and is dangerous to faith itself. Example: Caius is a
pagan who wishes to become a Catholic, but is kept back on account of
dangers from his fellow-pagans, who will persecute him as an apostate.
He, therefore, asks to be received as a secret Christian, with liberty
to profess no religion externally. This may be permitted for a time,
until Caius can move to some other place, but it cannot be permitted

(c) Public profession of faith is made when the reception of a convert
is made before the priest and two witnesses, and the convert thereafter
makes it known that he is a Catholic by attending Mass, receiving the
Sacraments, etc. This kind of profession of faith is ordinarily
required, but there is no law making it necessary for a convert to
publish the news of his conversion.

993. A difficult case occurs when one who wishes to become a convert is
unable to make public profession of Catholicity without suffering very
great detriment, and is unable to make private profession without
continuing in external practices of the non-Catholic religion. An
example of this would be a non-Catholic girl who is threatened with
destitution by her parents if she becomes a Catholic openly, and who
knows that she will be forced to go to church with them if she becomes
a Catholic privately. There are three courses in such a case: (a)
public profession of Catholicism at once could be advised if the party
showed signs of a special divine call and of a heroism equal to the
difficulties the public profession would entail; (b) private profession
of Catholicism could be tolerated for a time, if the party was of such
age and circumstances as to appear able to cope successfully with the
temptations and perplexities that beset this course; (c) delay of
Baptism until things take a better turn would be the most prudent plan,
if the deprivation of spiritual advantages would in the long run prove
a lesser evil than the inconveniences of public or private profession
of Catholicism.

994. Examination about one's religious status refers either to one's
faith, or to something not necessarily connected with faith. (a) When a
person is examined about his faith (e.g., whether he is a Catholic,
whether he believes in the doctrine of the Real Presence, or in Papal
Infallibility), profession of faith is obligatory, if its omission is
equivalent to denial. (b) When he is examined about something not
necessarily connected with faith, denial or concealment of the truth
would not be denial of faith, and concealment might be lawful, if the
question were unfair. Evasion would be sinful, if the denial or
concealment contained a lie or caused scandal. Examples: If a
missionary in England or Ireland in the sixteenth century had refused
to admit that he was a priest or religious, or a layman had refused to
confess that he had harbored a priest in his house or had assisted at
Mass, these denials would not necessarily contain a denial of the faith.

995. Examination about one's faith is made either by a private person
or by public authority.

(a) When a person is questioned about his religious belief by a private
person, he is not bound by reason of the question itself to make a
profession of his faith, for a private person has no authority to call
upon one in the capacity of a solemn and public witness; but he is
bound to make a profession of faith by reason of circumstances, if the
honor of God or the good of his neighbor requires that he declare his
belief. Examples: Titius is known as a very iniquisitive and meddlesome
character, who is continually asking others about their personal
affairs and putting silly questions. Wherefore, those who know him are
accustomed to pay no attention to his questions, or to tell him to mind
his business, or to give him some humorous reply. One day Titius asked
Balbus, whom he knew very well to be a Catholic: "What is your
religion?" Balbus retorted: "What is yours?" and left him. Caius is
studying Christianity with a view to embracing it, and asks Sempronius'
opinion on miracles. Sempronius, fearing the ridicule of some others
present if he admits belief in miracles, says that he knows nothing
about that subject. Balbus had a right to deny an answer to his
questioner; but Sempronius should have replied for the edification of
Caius and the honor of God.

(b) When a person is questioned about his religious belief by public
authority, his obligation to make a profession of faith is certain, if
the questioner has the right according to law to ask the question, and
if it is made to one individually and out of hatred of the faith; for
to this case apply the words of Christ: "You shall be brought before
governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them and to the
Gentiles" (Matt., x. 18).

996. In the following cases, one is not bound to confession of faith on
account of the public authority that puts the question, although one
may be bound on account of the circumstances:

(a) When the question is not put to an individual, but to a whole
community, by a law which requires them in time of persecution to
deliver themselves up as Christians or Catholics, there is no
obligation to comply with this law, since it is unjust, and neither the
honor of God nor the good of others requires one to make the profession
of faith it demands (see 377, 552).

(b) When the question is put to an individual by one in authority but
contrary to the law of the land, there is no obligation to answer.
Thus, if according to civil law the magistrates have no right to
examine about matters of conscience and one of them should nevertheless
do so, the party questioned could treat the question as out of order
and deny any answer.

(c) When the question is made according to law, but does not proceed
from hatred of the faith, one is not obliged positively to profess
one's faith, unless the omission would seem to those present to be a
denial of faith. Thus, a person might remain silent, or say that he did
not wish to answer, that he did not wish to say what his belief was,
etc., and in the circumstances it would seem that he would not be
denying his faith, but merely for some reason refusing to discuss it
when he thought there was no necessity.

997. The third case mentioned above (see 991), in which one is obliged
to profess one's faith publicly, is when the faith is. being attacked
in one's presence. The honor of God and the good of the neighbor then
require one to speak out. (a) Thus, if the doctrines of the faith are
being blasphemed or ridiculed, one should defend them, if one is able.
Otherwise, one should protest or leave the company, if this will be
advantageous to religion. (b) If sacred things are being profaned, one
should resist physically, if one is able to prevent what is going on.

998. Debates on religion between Catholics and non-Catholics are not in
themselves wrong, but as a rule they are useless and inexpedient.

(a) That such debates are not essentially wrong, is clear from the fact
that a suitable defender of the faith is able by argumentation to show
the misconceptions that are entertained about the faith and the
fallacious objections that are made against it. This is honorable to
God and profitable to the neighbor: "Saul confounded the Jews that
dwelt at Damascus, affirming that this is the Christ .... He spoke also
to the Gentiles and disputed with the Greeks" (Acts, ix. 22, 29).

(b) That controversy is generally unprofitable is a matter of
experience. Religious debates often lead to bitterness, and seldom
effect conversions. There is, moreover, an ever-present danger that the
sophistry or eloquence of an adversary may give him the appearance of
victory to the discredit of the faith, for even a foolish person can
raise difficulties which only a wise man can answer.

999. Consequently the rule governing religious disputations is that
they should be avoided, unless ecclesiastical authority deems them
useful at times. (a) If no provocation is offered, or if no good seems
likely to result from a debate, it should be avoided. (b) If one is
attacked and it seems that the honor of God and the good of souls will
be served by a debate, then capable and prudent speakers are permitted
by the Church to defend the faith, provided permission is secured from
the Holy See, or, in case of urgency, from the local Ordinary (Canon
1325, Sec.3). The prescriptions of this Canon were reaffirmed recently by
the Holy Office and applied especially to "ecumenical" conventions
convoked to promote church unity. Catholics, both lay and clerical,
may in no way be present at such meetings without the previous consent
of the Holy See (Holy Office, Monitum, June 5, 1948). See Appendix II.

1000. The divine precept of profession of faith so far considered
obliges on account of the virtue of faith itself, that is, on account
of the external honor or service due to the Word of God. There is also
a divine precept of profession of faith which obliges on account of
other virtues that may require such a profession of faith to be made
(e.g., on account of charity or justice). The omission of the
profession of faith in these cases, however, is not a sin against
faith, but against the other virtues, and should be confessed as such.

(a) Justice requires a profession of faith when, by reason of his
office, a person has the duty of teaching others in the faith, for to
teach the faith is to manifest one's own belief in it. Hence, bishops
and other pastors are obliged to preach: "Woe is unto me, if I preach
not the Gospel" (I Cor., ix. 16); and their teaching is a manifestation
of faith: "Having the same spirit of faith, as it is written: I
believed, for which cause I have spoken; we also believe, and therefore
we speak also" (II Cor., iv., 13).

(b) Charity requires a profession of faith when a person has not the
office of teacher, but has a suitable opportunity to impart instruction
to one who is in great ignorance about religion. For, as charity
requires one to perform corporal works of mercy for the suffering and
destitute, so it requires one to perform spiritual works of mercy for
the spiritually indigent, such as to instruct the ignorant, to counsel
the doubtful. Thus, a lay person who can prudently do so (the
circumstances of time, place, person, etc., being duly considered),
ought in charity to instruct in faith and morals the neglected children
around him.

1001. One is not bound to give instruction about matters of faith or
morals when this would lead to more harm than good; but
misrepresentation must be avoided.

(a) The purpose of instruction is to fulfill the will of God and to
benefit others; therefore, if these ends are not obtained but rather
defeated by an instruction, it should be omitted. The truth is always
good in itself, but its communication may not be expedient on account
of the recipient, who, being immature, may be harmed by the wrong
impression he will receive, or who, being badly disposed, may use
knowledge as a means to wrongdoing. Strong meat should not be given to
infants (Heb., vi. 11-14); pearls should not be cast before swine
(Matt., vii. 6). Examples: The mysteries of the faith (e.g.,
transubstantiation), should be explained with caution to those who are
not well instructed, lest they be overwhelmed with the brightness and
misunderstand. Difficult matters (such as predestination) or dangerous
subjects (such as sex duties) should not be discussed indiscriminately
with all kinds of persons. It is not right to instruct those who are in
ignorance of their duty, if this is not absolutely necessary and one
foresees that instruction will not prevent them from continuing in evil
ways but will only add to their guilt. It is wrong to put the Bible
into the hands of those who will use it for bad purposes.

(b) Misrepresentation or suppression is a lie, and in matters of
doctrine a denial of faith; hence, it is never lawful. The rule to be
followed, therefore, in teaching the faith is that one communicate the
same doctrine to all, but according to the capacity of his hearers--to
some in outline and to others more fully. This was the method of
Christ, who "with many parables spoke to them the word, according as
they were able to hear" (Mark, iv. 33).

1002. The Church has the duty not only of keeping the faith untarnished
among Catholics, but also of spreading it among non-Catholics,
Protestants, Jews and infidels, as far as circumstances will allow. For
God "Will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the
truth" (I Tim., ii. 4). Those, therefore, who assist missionary work
for unbelievers at home or abroad, do a work thrice blest, for (a) it
is a thanksgiving offering to God, testifying our appreciation of the
gift of faith which we have received from Him, (b) it is a work of
charity to ourselves, for by helping others to receive the faith we
strengthen our own faith, and (c) it is an act of supreme mercy to
those who are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.

1003, In addition to the divine precepts, there are also ecclesiastical
laws prescribing profession of faith.

(a) Ecclesiastical precepts of profession of faith for various
officials are contained in Canon 1406 and in the _Sacrorum Antistitum_
of Pius X (September 1, 1910), and Canon 2403 decrees that those who
contumaciously refuse to make the profession of faith of Canon 1406 may
be deprived of their office. Converts to the faith who are received
without absolute Baptism make an abjuration (Holy Office, July 20,
1859), and persons who have incurred excommunication on account of
apostasy, heresy or schism are absolved in the external forum after
juridical abjuration (Canon 2314).

(b) The purpose of these ecclesiastical laws is to prevent the
acceptance of spiritual or temporal jurisdiction or authority in the
Church, or the commission of teaching or the benefits of membership by
those who are unbelievers. Hence, the purpose is grave, and the laws
themselves are held to bind under grave sin.

(c) The persons bound by these ecclesiastical laws are both
ecclesiastics and laymen, namely, those who are about to be received
into or reconciled with the Church, and those who are about to be
admitted to some dignity, order, office or function (such as candidates
for the ranks of Cardinal, bishop, canon, parish priest, religious
superior, professor, preacher, confessor, doctor, etc).

(d) The form of the profession of faith is the Tridentine or Pian given
in the Bull of Pius IV, _Injunctum Nobis_, of November 13, 1564, with
additions referring to the Vatican Council. The oath against Modernism
prescribed in the _Sacrorum Antistitum_ of Pius X, of September 1,
1910, is also obligatory.

(e) The times when these professions of faith must be made are at
admission into the Church and at the reception or renewal of an office.

1004. The affirmative precepts of profession of faith, divine and
ecclesiastical, oblige only at the proper time and place, and therefore
on other occasions one is not obliged to make profession of faith. (a)
Hence, one may avoid a profession of faith by evading interrogation in
time of persecution--for example, through the payment of money to be
exempted from examination, or through flight. As these acts indicate
that the person is unwilling to deny his faith, but has reasons for
wishing to preserve his life or to avoid the danger of apostasy, they
are not of themselves unlawful, and may be a duty. (b) One may omit a
profession of faith by concealing one's religion, when prudence calls
for concealment rather than publication.

1005. Flight in time of persecution is lawful or unlawful according to
circumstances, since in itself it is something indifferent, being
simply the act of moving from one place to another.

(a) Flight is unlawful, if one's circumstances are such that one will
do an injury to justice or charity by departure. Hence, a pastor would
sin against justice if he fled in time of persecution, leaving his
flock who stood in need of his presence: "The good shepherd giveth his
life for his sheep. But the hireling and he that is not the shepherd,
seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and flieth" (John, x. 11,
12). Hence also, one who has no care of souls but whose presence is
necessary to a persecuted community should prefer out of charity their
spiritual good to his own bodily safety: "We ought to lay down our
lives for the brethren" (I John, iii. 16).

(b) Flight is necessary, if one's circumstances are such that one will
do an i